Barnet Council hoping to turn around problem families identified in Eric Pickles report as costing £1.7million

Times Series: A report published by secretary of state Eric Pickles this week showed 18 problem families in Barnet cost £1.7million last year A report published by secretary of state Eric Pickles this week showed 18 problem families in Barnet cost £1.7million last year

Troubled families cost Barnet Council and other public services in the borough more than £1.7million last year, new figures show.

A report published by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles this week showed 18 problem families targeted by the local authority were costing an average of £100,000 each per year.

But early intervention tactics have since reduced this figure and Barnet was praised among 15 other 'pathfinder authorities' working to reduce these costs.

Problems faced by families in the 'troubled' classification include drug abuse, alcoholism, truancy and domestic abuse.

The worst example was one Barnet family that cost police, social services, prison services and the local authority £345,000 in just 12 months.

Barnet Council has been working to identify reasons why these families cost public services so much, and has come up with early intervention tactics.

In 2010, the Government set a target of reducing some of the £9billion spent on 120,000 troubled families across the UK.

Under the scheme, the Department for Communities and Local Government has handed Barnet £1million this year to further its work and has pledged further cash based on results.

Councillor Andrew Harper, cabinet member for education, children and families, believes that in the past, spending on problem families has not been effective in tackling the problem.

He said: “The expenditure wasn’t bringing results for these families and not turning them around or creating better life chances for their children.

“But we are turning that around. Success could be a child turning up to school every day on time, maybe a father who is out of work and signing up at the job centre and actively looking for work, domestic violence that is finally being addressed – these are quantifiable things.”

The report published this week laid out the tactics being employed by the 16 local authorities the Government sees as leading the way in cost reduction through early intervention.

Barnet Council set aside £1million in 2011 for early intervention tactics – an investment Councillor Harper says has dramatically reduced the amount spent on the borough’s worst families.

He said: “The fact these figures are there at all is a sign it has been a success in terms of identifying these families and what they are costing.

“The early intervention is about ensuring there are fewer families in this situation in the future.

“I was delighted with the report and how we came out of it. We’re doing a good job and have been one of the pioneers in our work in this sector.”

Barnet will receive a further £700,000 in 2013-14 from the Government as well as cash contributions from other public services including the Department for Work and Pensions, Barnet Homes and the police.

But the Government scheme is only due to run until 2015 and the success of the pathfinder councils will be assessed after this time.

Cllr Harper said: “What happens post-2015 has not yet been decided. We need to make sure this early intervention tactic is fully embedded and we’re working as effectively as we can be before looking at the next step.”

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