Nottingham City is to make an early start on the next phase of work to support families with some of the most complex needs to make improvements in their lives.

A target of changing the lives of 1,200 families was set for the City by the Department for Communities and Local Government by the end of March 2015. Partnership work as part of the Priority Families Programme in Nottingham has achieved this ahead of schedule.

Nottingham City has today (22 December) been announced as being part of a group of local authorities who are ‘Early Starters’ in the next phase of the national Troubled Families Initiative from January 2015.

Led by Nottingham City Council, Priority Families is a smarter way of partnership working with families who have multiple problems, such as unemployment, truancy from school, and crime and anti-social behaviour.

Rather than one agency working with one family member in isolation, the whole family is now supported to sign up to a plan for change. They get a dedicated worker who coordinates all of their support from different partner agencies, such as health, schools, police, probation, housing and the JobCentre.

Existing staff have been trained to work in this way – rather than pay for a new team of workers – to ensure the programme is embedded into the public sector in Nottingham and that it is a sustainable way of working for the future.

The next phase, from 2015-2020, will allow the Priority Families Programme to work with even more families with an even wider range of issues, such as domestic violence and the health and wellbeing needs of children.

Cllr David Mellen, Portfolio Holder for Children and Families at Nottingham City Council, said: “I’m pleased that our partnership work to help families is being recognised at a national level. We have created a Priority Families Programme that is clearly an effective way of working in Nottingham that is sustainable for the future.

“We know that no two families are the same… so we’ve been making sure they get their own special package of help that’s right for them. We’re offering families the right support, from the right people, at the right time and for the right length of time. It’s about all of our agencies working smarter together for our Priority Families.”

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “The Troubled Families programme demonstrates exactly what our long-term economic plan means for people. New opportunities for families to turn their lives around and make something of themselves; more economic security for local communities blighted by worklessness; and more economic stability for taxpayers, as we reduce the bills for social failure and get this country living within its means. It’s a triple-win; an amazing programme; and we’re going to extend its reach as far as possible.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “I helped establish the Troubled Families programme because improving the lives of society’s most vulnerable is one of the best ways to achieve our aim of a stronger economy and fairer society. I am proud that this programme is delivering real results, having helped turn around the lives of families by putting children back into school, cutting anti-social behaviour, and moving adults into work.┬áIt’s great news that more than 85,000 troubled families in England have seen real, tangible improvements in their lives thanks to this programme, and that 99% of eligible families are now being actively worked with.”

Priority Families often have the greatest need for public sector support, which costs the taxpayer the most money. By helping them to make sustainable, long-lasting change in their lives, the Programme is saving money, working more efficiently and making a difference to the lives of people in Nottingham.

Nicky Dawson, Priority Families Programme Co-ordinator in Nottingham, said: “I’m delighted that we have improved the lives of so many families. Our programme has introduced a new way of supporting our families which is really making a difference in the City. Our aim has always been to make sure the programme is sustainable for the future by training existing staff to work holistically with the whole family. We’re seeing great results: families like it, workers like it; it’s really paying off.”

Case Study

Harry, 18, of Clifton, was frequently in trouble at school before being expelled in his final year. His attendance was poor – and this led to further tension in his family home, between his mum, stepdad, two older sisters and his younger brother.

“I just couldn’t get on with school,” he said. “I didn’t like the authority and I was always bored. I just can’t sit in a classroom – I learn better by being taught things in more of a hands-on way. It made my mum stressed and we were always arguing, which was having a bad impact on my younger brother.”

Due to a history of truancy and his unemployment after leaving school, as well as other unemployment in the family, Harry and his family were identified as needing extra support by the Priority Families Programme. He was one of 11 young people supported by the Priority Families Programme to apply for a new cohort of 50 apprentices who were taken on by Nottingham City Council’s Neighbourhood Services in March this year.

As well as receiving support with his application and interview, Harry and his fellow Priority Families apprentices now received ongoing mentoring support during the two-year apprenticeship, which includes on-the-job training and college placements.

“It’s been brilliant,” said Harry. “I’ve been an apprentice for eight months and I’m still sticking with it. My mum now never stops smiling; she’s less stressed and I feel like I’m a better role model for my younger brother. Rather than simply hanging around on the street, I’m now doing something with my life – I’m working, I’m earning money and I’m making a better contribution to my family at home.”

Nicky Dawson, Priority Families Programme Co-ordinator in Nottingham, said: “This is a really good example of how supporting one member of a family can be a catalyst for change for the whole family. I’m so proud of Harry and all of our apprentices who are working to make a change for the better in their lives.”

You can see a video about Harry’s story on our website here: