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School attendance and young offending successfully tackled by Intensive Family Support

New research released today (Thursday 27th June) by leading children’s charity Action for Children and Loughborough University shows that Intensive Family Support, which provides 1-2-1 support to “troubled families”, improved school attendance in two-thirds of children being supported and reduced young offending rates in nearly 70% of 11-16 year olds.*

Intensive Family Support offers tailored support, through a 1-2-1 relationship with a trained specialist, to families facing extreme difficulties in their lives, such as the risk of their children being taken into care. Providing a mixture of challenge and support, this hands-on approach helps families to address a range of issues, offering both practical and emotional support.

The model was successfully pioneered by Action for Children in 1996 and was identified by the Government in 2010, as a recommended approach, when they pledged to ‘turn around the lives of’ 120,000 of the UK’s most “troubled families”. The commitment also aimed to improve employment rates, reduce crime, anti-social behaviour, and school absences.

Earlier this week, it was announced that a further £200million would be invested in the troubled families initiative in order to work with an additional 400,000 ‘at risk’ families. This money will go towards early intervention services in order to work with families before their problems become too entrenched.

Anthea and her 14 year old son Tyrone were referred to an Action for Children Intensive Family Support service when Tyrone went into the care of the local authority. For Anthea it was a relief, as she knew she couldn’t cope anymore. Things are different now.

Anthea commented:

“Tyrone is back at home now and things are very different. My support worker has done some 1-1 work with Tyrone and 1-1 work with me. We’ve also had some sessions together and it has really helped.

“Tyrone is growing up now and is becoming more sensible, he has stopped the drinking, drugs and crime but he is still smoking……..he is going to an alternative education placement that Kate [key worker] helped us to sort out and things are much better.

“I just wish this type of support had been there earlier when things started to go wrong… is a shame that you have to be at breaking point before you can get help.”

Intensive Family Support services not only have real benefits for families, but have the potential to reduce costs for local authorities, according to analysis by Loughborough University. The cost of working with one third of families over a six month period was reduced following intervention** and realisable savings of between £10,588 and £21,879 achieved from three families. The research also found that the potential costs that could be avoided by local authorities (for example, if children had to be taken in to care) could be up to £130,471 per family.

Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive of Action for Children said: “These results reinforce the benefits Intensive Family Support services have for children and young people and the importance of investing in these services. At the heart of this research is real families we’re working with and we cannot put a price on these children’s futures. If we can take steps to increase school attendance and decrease offending rates, we hope to give children and young people the building blocks for the future.

“Many of the families are living chaotic lives so by having one key worker they can turn to, their relationship develops into one of trust. Having just one worker gives the family consistency but also someone who gets to know the family and can challenge them in order to address the issues they are facing. This isn’t an easy option for families, but can often be the last chance to transform their lives.”

Samantha McDermid, Senior Research Associate for Loughborough’s Centre for Child and Family Research (CCFR) co-ordinated the research for Action for Children.  She comments: “Comprehensive research is a vital tool for Action For Children and CCFR is delighted to have worked with them on this evaluation of Intensive Family Support.  At a time when public expenditure is under ever increasing scrutiny it is encouraging to be able to note that the support service is beneficial and that savings are possible when investing in help for families in need.”

Action for Children now runs 23 Intensive Family Support services across the UK and between April 2012 and March 2013 services worked with 2,109 children across the UK.

* For whom school attendance and offending outcomes were recorded. Action for Children (2013) The cost effectiveness of Action for Children’s Intensive Family Support Services

** Action for Children (2013) The cost effectiveness of Action for Children’s Intensive Family Support Services