Think Family success sees project extended

Members celebrating the launch of the community hub in Selsey.
Members celebrating the launch of the community hub in Selsey.
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A LIFE-changing project for those in need has been given the go-ahead to extend.

Think Family, a West Sussex County Council initiative, was launched in 2012 and sees services working together to help break ‘generational cycles of disadvantage’.

Its success so far has seen 67 per cent of the Chichester district families worked with being put back on the right path, thanks to assistance ranging from job advice to reducing criminal behaviour.

Last week it was 
announced that the project, which was originally piloted in Selsey, has been given support ‘in principle’ to continue until 2020.

SelseyWorks is one hub which has worked to deliver the West Sussex version of government’s Troubled Families initiative.

“Since we opened in February, we’ve had 385 people who have come in with various things. The majority are for back-to-work support, the next biggest are those who need help with their benefits,” said Sam Tate, town co-ordinator of Selsey Town Council who helped develop the SelseyWorks concept.

Demand is wide-ranging and rising, as Mrs Tate explained: “In the last two to three months we’ve seen an increase in emergency assistance vouchers, things like electric, gas and 
food banks.

“There’s been a regular stream of people coming in with housing support needs. Emergency homeless shelters are a big issue.”

The use of keyworker care professionals is seen as a ground-breaking aspect of Think Family and ensures assistance is targeted where it is needed.

Peter Evans, West Sussex County Council Cabinet member for children – start of life said: “This project really is turning people’s lives around and helping families on so many levels.

“No only is West Sussex the best area in the country for getting people into employment under the Think Family scheme, but it’s also thought to be the only area to be using a neighbourhood approach.”

As well as improving lives, it is estimated the project will save taxpayers thousands as each ‘troubled family’ costs £75,000 per year without intervention.

In return, local authorities are paid up to £4,000 on a payment-by-results basis, funds for which have come from the government’s £448m three-year budget for the scheme.

West Sussex has a higher success rate than its neighbouring counties, with 65 per cent of the identified families now heading in the right direction – compared 
to Surrey 54 per cent, 
Kent 47 per cent, and East Sussex 38 per cent.

However, so far West Sussex adds up to just 9.4 per cent of the 117,000 families nationally.

The first phase of Think Family had the aim of turning around the lives of 1,165 families by the end of March 2015. Latest figures show 907 of these have achieved success so the view is it is ‘well on its way to meeting this target’.

Extending the programme could see another 4,000 West Sussex families benefiting.

Secretary of state Eric Prickles described the ‘new opportunites’ for people to ‘turn their lives around’ and economic benefits both locally and nationally as a ‘triple-win’.

“It’s an amazing programme,” he said. “We’re going to extend its reach as far as possible.”

For more on Think Family, visit www.westsussex.gov.uk