New projects funded to strengthen families and keep children out of care
DfE announces £84 million investment to mark 30th anniversary of Children Act
The Department for Education has marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Children Act by pledging £84 million of new investment for projects designed to strengthen and support families and, by so doing, has reaffirmed the Act’s core principle that, where possible, children are best brought up with their parents.
Children in and on the edge of care are intended to benefit from the new investment. Up to twenty councils will receive funding to help improve their practice, supporting families to stay together wherever appropriate, so that fewer children need to be taken into care and giving them the best chance to succeed in life.
Three ‘early adopters’ have been unveiled to deliver one of three landmark projects originally run through the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme: Darlington, Cambridgeshire and Middlesbrough.
The launch of the government’s Strengthening Families, Protecting Children programme will start work to roll out the three successful projects to other eligible councils, where there are persistently high numbers of children being taken into care.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:
“Every child deserves to grow up in a stable, loving family and go through life confident that someone always has your back. But for too many children, this is simply not a reality. With the number of children in care rising, many of these children face a far starker version of reality, one where their parents are in the grips of their own nightmare, through mental health problems, the trauma of domestic violence or an addiction.
“We must assist those parents facing difficulties and work with them to strengthen their family relationships so they can properly support their children. In the year that sees the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Act [sic], we must stay true to its heart – that where possible and safe, children are best brought up, loved and supported by their parents.”
The three projects being introduced in twenty new areas are:
Leeds Family Valued: working with the whole family unit and any support network to encourage long term changes at home that keep children safe, working with families rather than imposing measures on them. Independent evaluation of the project’s impact on the target population shows that between 2011 and 2017, Leeds reduced the number of children on children’s services Protection Plans by nearly 50% (974 in 2011 down to 515 in 2017).
Hertfordshire Family Safeguarding: creates teams consisting of mental health practitioners, domestic abuse workers, probation officers and children’s social workers to strengthen the bond between couples, support fathers and male partners to prevent violent behaviour. Evaluation shows this resulted in a 39% reduction in the number of days children spent in care, for cases allocated to the safeguarding team, a 53% drop in in hospital admissions for adults in that family, and a 66% reduction in contact with the police.
North Yorkshire No Wrong Door: creates ‘hubs’ where young people at risk of going into care get targeted support to cope with the multiple issues they face, including lack of accommodation or contact with the police. Independent evaluation showed the programme saw a 38% fall in arrests of individuals involved during the first 18 months of the programme and a 57% reduction in A&E visits.
The first three local authorities to benefit from this programme – Darlington, Cambridgeshire and Middlesbrough – have started discussions and are due to start work soon. Eligible councils must meet a core criterion of being rated ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted and having either high or rising rates of children in care over the last three years.
For the full announcement, click here.