Local authorities across the country face the challenge of how best to support vulnerable children and families in their areas. While priority must be given to safeguarding children, budgets for prevention can be squeezed out. Local authority commissioners are often looking at how they can better manage demand for care placements and couple this with more targeted effective prevention support to families.
Adolescents often end up in care due to anti-social or challenging behaviour where their parents just can’t cope. There are evidence-based family support therapies that have proven track record in helping identify and address the trigger points for problematic behaviour. However, many local authorities cannot access these services either due to cost pressures or they lack sufficient scale to make the service worthwhile.
The outcomes for children who have spent time in care, particularly when they enter care as adolescents, are poor:
- Education outcomes at GCSE level are more than three times worse than children overall,
- the incidence of mental health problems is high
- care leavers are twice as likely to be NEET (not in education, employment or training) at age 19 compared to the general population.
The costs of care placements are high at £20k-£300k per child per year, ranging from foster care to residential care.
Better access to intensive therapeutic services can enable more young people to remain safely at home with their families, rather than in care
We have formed the Positive Families Partnership with five London Boroughs, three service providers and a social investor, with a common goal: to prevent vulnerable families from breaking up and young people from going into care. Positive Families Partnership is setting up across the five Boroughs multi-systemic therapy and functional family therapy – evidenced-based therapeutic services with track record of delivering positive outcomes for families and young people. The services will be delivered under an outcomes contract backed by social investment. This means that local authorities only pay for successful outcomes where the young person remains safely at home and is not in care. An investment approach brings with it the incentives and accountability that drives continual performance improvement.
The model is scalable so that other coroughs could join to access these services in a way that is cost effective and focused on delivering positive outcomes for families.
Our team has worked with coroughs across London and nationally to determine the feasibility of co-commissioning therapeutic services in this way, to make sure that as many young people who can safely remain at home, are enabled to do so.
Partnership website: https://www.positivefamiliespartnership.com/