Hundreds of families with some of the most complex problems in Nottingham have been supported to make improvements in their lives.

A total of 1,200 families have been worked with by the Priority Families Programme over the last three years.

Led by Nottingham City Council, Priority Families is a new 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.

Established up as part of the Government’s Troubled Families Initiative in 2012, the Priority Families Programme was given a target of improving the lives of 1,200 families by April 2015. This target has been achieved six months early.

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: “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.

“In the past, we worked with one family member and focused on their one particular problem. What Priority Families recognises is that all of the family members impact on each other. So we’ve been training our staff to work with the whole family, in a new way.

“It’s a much more effective way of partnership working in Nottingham that is sustainable for the future.”

Joe Tuke, Director of the national Troubled Families Team in the Department for Communities and Local Government, praised the strong leadership for the programme in Nottingham.

He said: “The fact that you have now delivered on your commitment to turn around all your families, six months ahead of schedule, is a great achievement and reflects really well on colleagues who have worked so hard with families.”

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: