MORE than 400 of Oxfordshire’s so-called trouble families have been turned around, potentially saving taxpayers millions.
Estimated as costing £75,000 each every year, trouble families are those which have children excluded from school, parents on benefits and are often involved in crime and anti-social behaviour.
Of the 810 households identified in the county to be applicable, and of the 700 that Oxfordshire County Council has worked with so far, 444 have been “turned around” since the scheme launched in April 2012.
Labour councillor for Witney South and shadow cabinet member for adult social care Laura Price welcomed the scheme but has some concerns.
She said: “While the figures are good to hear, I would still want the county council to look more at early intervention.
“I would like to be able to pick the figures apart to see what does and doesn’t work so that we can really focus on what is working.”
For every family the council turns in to “thriving families”, with adults in work and children back at school, it receives up to £4,000.
So far the county council, which had to pay out £1.6m at the start of the scheme, has been awarded £2.5m and it is hoping to receive £3m in total by the end of next March.
Stefanie Perry has been working with the team for the past six months and praised the impact it has had on her family.
Simon and Kelly-Ann Strange with two of their five children, Camron, two, and Kai, eight months
The mother-of-five, from Coltsfoot Square, Greater Leys, said being part of Thriving Families has helped her with her children’s schooling and getting her back on the right track for work
Miss Perry, 36, said: “There is a bit of a stigma.
“People think you and your kids are trouble but there are not many places I can go to get help.
“Social services have never been involved with us but my son Kane has been in trouble.
“But it wasn’t until we started seeing our worker that she suggested we should get him tested as he could be a bit autistic.
“In the past, no-one has really been able to help us and everyone was all over the place.”
Miss Perry said matters are made harder because four of her children each attend a different school.
Five-year-old Callie goes to Pegasus Primary, while Kye, six, is at Windale Primary,
12-year-old Charley is at Oxford Academy and Kane, 16, goes to St Gregory’s.
Her oldest son Jordan, 17, is now being helped to find employment.
Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “The results we are continuing to see in Oxfordshire demonstrate that the scheme is working well here, and that by taking a firm but positive approach, our dedicated staff are helping families overcome their problems and make positive contributions to society.”
Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron said: “Getting some of our county’s most troubled families’ lives back on track is a key part of our long-term plan.
“It saves the taxpayer money, gives people the chance to get on in life and secures a better future for these families, their communities and for our country.”
TURNAROUND IS ULTIMATE GOAL
A trouble family is defined as one which costs the public sector an average of £75,000 a year.
It will usually either have children who play truant or are excluded from school, are involved in youth crime and anti-social behaviour, and have an adult on out-of-work benefits.
A successful “turnaround” is when:
Children who were truanting or excluded have now been back in school for three consecutive terms and;
Youth crime and anti-social behaviour across the household have been significantly reduced or;
An adult in the household has been employed for at least three consecutive months.
SUPPORT IS ‘DESPERATELY NEEDED’
Simon Strange, 47, of Blackbird Leys Road, has not heard of the scheme but welcomed it.
He and his wife Kelly-Ann, 36, are both unemployed and have five children – Jordan, eight, Brandon, five, Lewis, three, Camron, two, and eight-month-old Kai.
Mr Strange said: “I’ve never heard of it, but we desperately need some kind of support.
“We’ve got Jordan whose behaviour is getting worse. He’s starting to turn into a little bit of a recluse. He went on a trip for troubled kids recently and the report said his behaviour was really bad there.
“Between us all, I wouldn’t say we’re a troubled family, but we need help.
“With all the cuts there are coming it’s just getting ridiculous. Ideally I’d like some time for us and somebody to look after the kids. I’m here looking after everybody seven days a week – I’m basically an unpaid carer.
“The Government keeps putting all of this pressure on parents, but the financial pressure is from them in the first place.”
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