Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to ‘turn around the lives’ of Britain’s troubled families has been welcomed by Birmingham’s head of crime and communities.
The Tory PM was in Oldbury to announce £448 million of investment in a new Government Troubled Families Team which will work with councils up and down the country, including Birmingham.
An estimated 4,500 Birmingham families and 1,115 families in Sandwell, those most hit by welfare dependency, joblessness, addiction, chaotic lifestyles, crime, poor education achievement and anti-social behaviour, will be targeted.
According to Government figures the average troubled family costs the taxpayer £75,000 a year, and last year Birmingham’s Community Safety Partnership worked out that two of the city’s warring gang families had cost the taxpayer £38 million over three decades – in welfare, criminal justice, health service and clean up costs.
Council cabinet member for Community Safety Ayoub Khan (Lib Dem, Aston), welcomed the initiative and added investment. “I am delighted that we will get extra help to deal with these families. This help drive down crime in the future.”
Birmingham and Sandwell councils now have until February to draw up plans, for which they can expect about 40 per cent Government funding. The remainder would be from money saved on existing initiatives. The Prime Minister described it as a ‘spend to save’ scheme.
Money would be paid on observable results – such as children attending school, family members going into work or training or a drop in offending and anti-social behaviour.
But the West Bromwich East Labour MP Tom Watson pointed out that the Government had last year cut Sandwell borough’s huge school rebuilding scheme which would have benefited many more families.
He said: “The PM’s “boost” of £448 million for families is just under four times the amount he cut to the schools budget in Sandwell.”
Mr Cameron outlined his plans at the Sandwell Christian Centre in Oldbury. He said that some people describe troubled families as ‘families with multiple disadvantages’, others as ‘neighbours from hell.’
“Whatever you call them, we’ve known for years that a relatively small number of families are the source of a large proportion of the problems in society.
“Drug addiction. Alcohol abuse. Crime. A culture of disruption and irresponsibility that cascades through generations.”
But he denied it was ‘nannying’ and is instead a practical solution to a major social and economic problem.
Mr Cameron highlighted the work of the Family Intervention Project in Smethwick which had successfully turned around one family whose ‘criminality has spiralled out of control’ with daily visits from police.
“The breakthrough came when the mother admitted to the housing officer that she was struggling to cope at home,” he said. “The Family Intervention Project gave the family a key worker, who over the next 9 months helped the family transform its behaviour.
“The change is lasting too – there are now no calls to the police, the teenage children are engaging with school, the younger children are more settled.”