Durham County Council is to receive almost £650,000 in central government cash in a pioneering approach to helping struggling families.

The national Troubled Families programme aims to assist families affected by issues such as long-term unemployment, severe debts, truancy and domestic violence.

Now, as the Troubled Families scheme is being rolled out to more and more people, 11 local authorities have been chosen to receive a chunk of their funding up front, enabling them to invest in far-reaching plans to help families improve their lives.

Durham County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Cllr Olwyn Gunn, said, “We are the only authority in the north east to have been given the new Earned Autonomy status, which recognises the strong case we made – with our partners – for that upfront investment.”

“We hope this funding will help us achieve our ambitious aims, spurring faster transformation of the services we offer and ensuring high-quality support for families in need.”

The new Earned Autonomy scheme will complement the existing Payments by Results system, in which councils are paid for each family that achieves “significant and sustained progress” or moves into permanent employment.

Durham County Council will use the extra money to target the three parts of the county which have the highest needs for extra family support.

Part of the money will be invested in a new IT system, which will enable agencies to share information and work together more easily. The money will also be spent on training staff, partners and voluntary sector workers to ensure that they have the skills to deal with families with complex needs.

In addition, the injection of cash will support programmes to help families affected by domestic violence and will help develop a ‘relational, child-centric approach’ to working with families, to make sure that children’s needs are taken into consideration.

Local government minister Rishi Sunak welcomed the progress made so far by the Troubled Families programme.

Mr Sunak said, “Adults who were once far from the job market are moving into work.”

“Children are getting the right support they need and local leaders are encouraging and challenging all services working with children and their families to act early and offer whole family support to stop their problems becoming worse.”

(Featured image courtesy of Kat Grigg, from Flickr Creative Commons)

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