Headlines: June 19th, 2012

All 150 larger councils have taken the Community Budget cash offer to help them in turning round troubled families in their areas.

Communities and Local Government have drawn on the budgets of six other departments so that a three-year budget of £448 million is available to support councils who sign up to the scheme. It is estimated that some 120,000 families put a £9 billion drain on public spending, amounting to £75,000 per family per year, with £8 billion of this spent on reacting to, rather than getting to the root causes of their problems.

The troubled families programme breaks the mould of traditional service delivery and opens the way for local development of radically different business models. It is the testbed for public service re-design. Providing a common pot budget allows all agencies concerned to collaborate so that a wide range of skills can be deployed to best advantage. By breaking down the organization silo walls and by bringing focused leadership dedicated to the issue of a problem family, duplication of effort and cracks between services are minimised.

Councils will receive £4000 for each troubled family, but the money will cover only 40 per cent of costs, and councils will have to fund the other 60 per cent themselves. However, where a council manages to cut a family’s level of truancy, anti-social behaviour, or benefit dependency, it will receive extra money.

In addition to the Troubled Families Community Budgets there are four Community Budget pilots exploring ‘ways to create local growth and reduce dependency on the state’. There are also ten ‘neighbourhood level’ pilots developing smaller scale Community Budgets that will give residents a micro-local level say over the services they want and use. The local community will play a leading role, working with councils and professionals to shape local services so they work from a customer’s perspective.

Many councils across the country are developing a multi agency approach to children’s services. A survey of council children’s services staff found that 84 per cent of respondents said they were already working in or planning to work in multi-agency teams to help improve outcomes around children and families.

The results of the survey, which was conducted by Capita One, suggest that many councils are not waiting for the results of the pilot schemes which are trialing the pooling of budgets and introducing multi skilled teams to support the most troubled families. Although councils outside the pilot schemes cannot pool budgets, they can collaborate with other agencies to take a joint approach.