Liverpool City Council could get early access to £6.5 million of funding to support struggling families to turn their lives around.
The Liverpool Families Programme, funded by the Government’s Troubled Families initiative, works with parents and children who are affected by unemployment, domestic abuse, health problems, school absence, children in need and crime.
It is estimated staff will work with 6,760 families by 2020, in addition to 2,105 previously supported in an earlier phase of the scheme.
To date, funding has been given on the basis of payment by results – with the city council only receiving cash for those cases where it can clearly demonstrate it has successfully helped families facing multiple difficulties.
The council’s success to date means it is one of a number of local authorities invited to apply for what is known as “earned autonomy” status. If the bid is approved by Government, the city council would get the remaining funding upfront, enabling it to accelerate investment in services to support those who need it.
It is proposed that some of the money is used to support children affected by autism, domestic abuse and criminal exploitation/gangs.
There would also be investment in Early Help services including ‘kinship’ family support (where a child is looked after by a relative) and working with Public Health to deliver a model of support from 0-19 years with a special focus on a child’s first 1,000 days of life, including through Children’s Centres.
And the council also plans to put more investment into training for staff around identifying neglect, and recruiting and retaining staff in Children’s Services.
The aim is to increase the number of families getting Early Help to tackle issues and problems which are affecting parenting, improving school readiness and attendance and reducing caseloads for social workers.
Councillor Barry Kushner, Cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Assisting families before they get into crisis is working, and has led to a reduction in the number of referrals to children’s social care and a drop in young people on child protection plans. But demand for our services is still far too high and we have no choice but to redouble our efforts, particularly as many vulnerable families are being, and will continue to be, affected by welfare reform.
“The proposed flexibility to funding that this new approach would bring is welcome, but it must be set in the context of a 68 percent reduction in the council’s overall council budget from 2010 – 2020, and the crisis in children’s social care, which is placing a great strain on many of our frontline services.”
Assistant Mayor and Cabinet member for schools, Councillor Nick Small, said: “We have made good strides, albeit from a very low base, in improving school readiness, and are also working very closely with schools and parents to get the message out that every lesson counts when it comes to attendance. We want to use this funding to extend this work.
“Unlike many other councils, we have retained all of our Children’s Centres, and we want to use some of the money to provide more services with our colleagues in health to give mums and dads the support they need so that babies and toddlers get the best start in life.”
The report will be considered by the Cabinet on Friday 26 January.
A final decision on the council’s bid will be made by the Government by April 2018.