Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Leeds to get £8 million to help turn families lives around

A scheme to help over 2,000 troubled families in Leeds turn their lives around is being launched this week.

Families First Leeds, an initiative funded through the Government’s Troubled Families scheme, will tackle anti-social behaviour, improve school attendance and support parents to move into work over the next three years.

Leeds City Council is an early adopter of the scheme and will launch ‘Families First’ on Thursday 6 September with Louise Casey CB, the Director General for the national Troubled Families team, as the keynote speaker.

Media Opportunity:
When: Thursday 6 September at 1pm – 1.20pm for interviews (the event begins at 1.30pm, no interviews will be available after 1.20pm).
Where: John Charles Centre for Sport, Middleton Grove, LS11 5DJ
Members of the media are invited to attend the launch of Families First Leeds. Interviews will be available with Louise Casey, Cllr Judith Blake and Nigel Richardson.

Leeds has secured up to £8 million in funding over the next three years and it is estimated that around 2,000 families will benefit from the additional support to help reduce offending, improve attainment and raise aspirations.

The launch event, at the John Charles Centre for Sport, will be opened by Councillor Judith Blake, Leeds City Council’s executive member for children’s services. With Nigel Richardson, director of children’s services and Jim Hopkinson, head of targeted services also speaking at the event.
All speakers will form a panel for a question and answer session with the audience of 130 professionals, from a range of organisations who are responsible for working with troubled families including; the police, health, probation, schools, housing and job centre plus, as well as professionals from Leeds City Council.

Councillor Judith Blake, chair of Families First Leeds programme board and executive board member for children’s services said:
“This is an ambitious programme offering the opportunity to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable families. With this funding we will be able to help families tackle the root of their problems, which can too often spiral out of control and affect future generations.

“Families First Leeds will build on existing good practice across the city and bring all agencies and council services together. The additional support we’ll be able to offer vulnerable families will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the whole community.”

Louise Casey CB, Director General for the national Troubled Families team, said;
"Across the country we are committed to turning around the lives of 120,000 troubled families. In Leeds there are 2190 families who will be targeted to get help to change. This is important because at the moment, local services like police, health and schools currently spend a large amount of time and money dealing with the problems these families have and cause - each family costing tax payers around £75,000 per year on average, and that's without getting to the root causes of their problems and helping them change for good. For the benefit of these families and for taxpayers in Leeds, this can't go on.

"I'm delighted with the response from Leeds City Council so far. They've grabbed this opportunity with both hands - to use the new funding on offer to really get to grips with troubled families in Leeds, and setting the pace for other areas to follow."

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713
Email: emma.whittell@leeds.gov.uk


Families First Leeds:
For more information on Families First Leeds please contact Lesley Wilkinson, Interim Programme manager tel: 0113 24 76825.

Louise Casey CB:
Louise Casey took up her post as Director-General of the Troubled Families programme in November 2011.
She is working for the Secretary of State on the Prime Minister's commitment to turn around the lives of 120,000 of the country's most troubled families.
Louise was formerly the first independent Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses, acting to promote the interests of victims and witnesses in Whitehall, the Criminal Justice System and beyond.
Previously, Louise was Director-General in the Home Office, heading up the Neighbourhood Crime and Justice Group. Prior to that, she carried out an independent review from the Cabinet Office which took a detailed look at the public's view on crime and how to engage them in tackling it.
In 2005, Louise was appointed as the head of the cross-government Respect Task Force which worked to tackle anti-social behaviour by getting to its causes through programmes such as parenting and intervention and support for problematic families. Before that, she was the Director of the Home Office's Anti-social Behaviour Unit.
Louise also led the successful strategy to reduce the number of people sleeping rough and established the Homelessness Directorate in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Between 1992 and 1999, Louise was Deputy Director of Homelessness Charity Shelter and, prior to that, held a number of posts in the social welfare sector.
Louise was awarded the Companion of the Order of Bath (CB) in the Queen's birthday honours list, 2008.

Notes end

Leeds Council lobbies government over social housing reforms

The leaders of all political parties on Leeds City Council have joined forces to lobby the government on strict new criteria which could see disabled people and foster carers penalised for having extra rooms in their homes.

All parties on the council are concerned that the government’s introduction of the social housing sector size criteria will have a detrimental impact on many Leeds residents, and could force some people out of their homes.

In order to raise this issue with ministers, all party leaders have written a joint letter to ask the government to reconsider it’s decision.

From April 2013, due to the government’s welfare reforms, council or housing association tenants of working age will see their housing benefit reduced if they have a spare bedroom in their property. Tenants will face a choice of either finding the additional money themselves to enable them to stay in their own home or, if that option is unaffordable, finding smaller accommodation.

The number of bedrooms a household will be entitled to is dependent on the number people living there. The calculation is similar to that currently used by the council to allocate properties. However, in Leeds exceptions are currently made to enable certain vulnerable groups to live fulfilling and independent lives, but the government reforms will remove these exceptions. As a result, foster carers will not be entitled to additional bedrooms for children in their care, and separated parents will not receive additional room to enable their children to visit on weekends. Disabled council tenants will also not be entitled to an additional room for adaptations to their properties that would enable them to live independently.

Currently Leeds City Council also has a policy of avoiding placing families with children in multi storey tower blocks, which means these are usually occupied by single people or couples, who would, under the new reforms, be penalised for under-occupying their properties.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council said:
“Quite simply this new criteria isn’t fair. I am deeply concerned about the impact that the full range of welfare reforms is going to have on many people across the city, but this particular change is extremely worrying as it will affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“As a responsible council and social landlord, we are doing all we can raise our concerns and try to bring about changes to protect people from possible financial hardship or being forced to downsize.

“Whilst we understand that the government has increased the amount of funding for Discretionary Housing Payments, we believe it is still insufficient to deal with shortfalls to benefit in circumstances where it is necessary to provide additional space or beyond the reasonable control of tenants to downsize.

“The council has for many years been committed to achieving better use of its stock by matching people to properties of appropriate size. We would be happy to work with the government on these ideas but believe the present national proposals are a blunt instrument which will have severe detrimental effects in Leeds.”

Another concern raised by the council is that there would be insufficient supply in the social sector to meet the demand of people who are being encouraged to downsize to one bedroom properties, and it is estimated, the reforms will leave the council with an annual £4m to collect, which will not be covered by benefit.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713
Email: emma.whittell@leeds.gov.uk