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Families at Risk Review

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 10 January 2008

Today we are publishing “Think Family: Improving the Life Chances of Families at Risk”. This forms the next stage of the “Families at Risk Review” led by the Social Exclusion Task Force and follows on from the publication of “Reaching Out: Think Family” in June 2007.

“Think Family” argues that excellent children’s services, and excellent adults’ services, are not enough in isolation. To transform life chances and break the cycle of disadvantage, services must go further. Today’s report builds on the review’s earlier analytical work by setting out a vision of an integrated system that ‘thinks family’ at every level. The goal is to extend the logic of integration behind “Every Child Matters” beyond children’s services to include adults’ services and promote collaboration and co-ordination around the needs of the family.

There are four key principles that underpin a system that ‘thinks family’. First, there is no ‘wrong door’ to effective support and contact with any service opens a door into a system of joined up support. Secondly, services take a ‘whole family’ approach, responding to clients as family members and supporting parental responsibilities. Thirdly, professionals start with a family’s strengths and build on a family’s capacity to take responsibility for their own lives. Fourthly, the system provides support tailored to need.

The system design is based upon findings from extensive research and consultation with practitioners, local policy makers and families themselves. To take this vision forward DCSF has launched an invitation to local authorities to apply to become one of the £13 million Family Pathfinders set out in “Think Family” and the “Children’s Plan”. The Family Pathfinders will improve service delivery to families at risk through change at all levels of the system; from strategy and governance through to the delivery of front line services. The pathfinders will build on the learning from innovative family-based services such as the Family Intervention Projects. Working alongside the network of local authorities involved in the “Narrowing the Gap” project, these pathfinders will help to generate learning about how local areas can transform outcomes by ‘thinking family’. An additional £3 million will be made available over the next three years for extended Family Pathfinders which will also look in depth at how better forms of support can be built around families in which children are taking on caring responsibilities.

The Family Pathfinders will sit at the heart of a wider process of learning shared between central and local government, practitioners and families themselves to help drive change in every local area.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Library for the reference of Members and are available in the Vote Office.

The report is also available on the Cabinet Office website at: www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/social_exclusion _task_force