Up to 40 local authority areas are expected to benefit from a £15 million Department of Education programme to expand promising innovative approaches to keeping families safely together.
Children at risk of being taken into care are set to benefit from programmes that tackle the root cause of family problems, by strengthening the expert support available from social workers, addiction specialists and psychiatrists.
The new programme, called “Supporting Families; Investing in Practice“, will help families work on issues together, including those impacted by domestic violence, substance misuse or addiction, in order to help create stability in the home for young people and prevent them being taken into care, where that is in their best interests. This is part of wider Government work to improve outcomes for children in need of support of a social worker, by creating home and school environments in which they can thrive.
Modelled on existing Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDACs) and a programme known as Family Group Conferencing, the innovative new projects will be rolled out in up to 40 new council areas.
The programme is in partnership with the What Works Centre, which will oversee the implementation of the programmes in local authorities. It will gather further evidence of their effectiveness in keeping children and parents together, with the aim of spreading best practice in the future.
The projects being introduced or expanded in up to 40 new areas will be based on:
1. Family Drug and Alcohol Courts
This project provides a problem solving approach to care proceedings, where a team of substance misuse specialists, domestic violence experts, psychiatrists and social workers carry out an early assessment and agree an intervention plan with parents who come before the court in care proceedings. Once in proceedings, parents begin a “trial for change”, supported by the specialist team and with regular meetings with the judge, who reviews the progress being made as well as adjudicating in the case . The Family Drug and Alcohol Court model has been evaluated previously and found to have strong evidence of a positive effect on family reunification. As well as expanding the model to new sites, innovations of the FDAC model in existing sites will be tested to see if further improvements can be made.
2. Family Group Conferences
This project puts families at the heart of making safe decisions and plans for children that are at immediate risk of being taken into care. Children and young people are involved in the conference along with their wider family network, and often supported by an advocate from outside the family. Together, a plan is agreed by all those involved and families agree to meet again to assess how well the plan is going and make the changes necessary to protect children.
The £15 million investment comes on top of £84 million committed by the Department for Education in April to help up to 20 councils support families to stay together through the Strengthening Families, Protecting Children programme. These projects aim to build resilience among more vulnerable families and improve how councils design and run services.
Further information about the Supporting Families; Investing in Practice programme, including details of the application process, can be found at this LINK.