Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour Casts Scorn on Families Policy; Councils Are Already Trying to Tackle Issues

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour Casts Scorn on Families Policy; Councils Are Already Trying to Tackle Issues

Article excerpt

Byline: William Green

GOVERNMENT pledges to help thousands of "problem families" across the North East have been called into question by Labour.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles yesterday welcomed news that every eligible council had agreed to run the Government's programme in their area to help 120,000 troubled families over the next three years.

Councils that succeed in tackling problem families are to be paid up to pounds 4,000 for each household whose lives they turn around under the programme.

In the North East, the Government says there are 7,285 such families - including 1,010 in Newcastle, 595 in Gateshead, 650 in Northumberland and 1,320 in County Durham.

They could receive more than pounds 24m in total if they hit the Government's targets, with pounds 3.9m available for a network of coordinators for the scheme. Mr Pickles insisted the take-up showed the Government had the confidence of councils to tackle the problem, adding it could cut the pounds 9bn a year currently spent on the most troubled families in England.

But Nick Forbes, Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, claimed the Tory Cabinet Minister was simply re-announcing a policy having already slashed budgets for town halls.

The Government has taken pounds 448m from Whitehall departmental budgets over three years to help pay for a network of people who will identify families in need of help, make sure they get access to the right services and ensure that action is taken.

But the money will cover only 40% of costs, and councils who want to use it will have to agree to fund the other 60% themselves.

The scheme aims to reduce truancy, youth crime and anti-social behaviour and help put adults on track to find work.

"Eric Pickles is keen on recycling and here is a policy which we have already seen before," said Mr Forbes. "He ignores the fact that councils are already working closely with partner agencies like the police and health to support families in difficulty. …

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