The government has launched an action plan to help at-risk families and has given details of the 20 areas that will deliver their new £6.5m family intervention project.

Children’s minister Dawn Primarolo yesterday launched a number of initiatives, including an expansion of projects helping young carers, guidance to help professionals provide more support for children of parents with substance misuse problems, information on how probation and prison services must work together with children’s services to help offenders maintain family ties, and local authority grants to help plan recruitment and training of professionals to help families at risk.

The minister said: “The package of measures announced today will help professionals working with families and make sure no child or family is left behind. As well as today’s package, our planned changes to the role of children’s trusts will place a clear responsibility on agencies to co-ordinate services to improve the wellbeing of children and young people. This will further ensure vulnerable children are not missed.”

The vulnerability of children who live in families where there are issues of alcohol and substance misuse, domestic abuse, mental health and learning difficulties cannot be underestimated.  These high risk factors have been highlighted in a rising number of serious case reviews where children have suffered significant harm and death as a result of living in families where these difficulties are present.  The plans announced today indicate a welcome commitment towards inter agency working to safeguard children living in the most vulnerable families.

Families with multiple issues often need complex solutions to ensure that children and vulnerable adults are safeguarded.  Parents and carers in such families can be vulnerable adults themselves and as such need safeguarding too.  It is often the case that children and young people take on the role of carer for parents and siblings when the parent does not have the capacity to provide care, as is the case in episodes of substance misuse or deteriorating mental health or psychotic episodes.   Identifying the very specific signs and symptoms of neglect and abuse related to living in an environment where these issues are present for children can be difficult.  Under these new initiatives practitioners working with these hard to reach families will be given the specialised training they need to take action to safeguard children and young people for significant harm.

The areas which will deliver the latest Child Poverty Family Intervention Projects, part of a pilot scheme testing out innovative ways of determining what is effective in working towards the eradication of child poverty by 2020, are: Cheshire West and Chester, East Sussex , Worcestershire, York, Calderdale , Gloucestershire, Manchester, Derbyshire, Northumberland, Redcar & Cleveland, Suffolk, Enfield, Wakefield, Tameside, Sheffield, Blackburn with Darwen, Bournemouth, Plymouth, Central Bedfordshire and Bedford.  They join 20 other areas that are already delivering the projects.

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