New £2.6million plan to turn round lives of ‘troubled’ Sunderland families

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles
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A MULTIMILLION-pound scheme is set to tackle hundreds of troubled families on Wearside.

Up to 805 Sunderland households facing problems such as truanting children, youth crime, parents with addiction and long-term unemployment will be targeted by the Government initiative.

It is hoped the £2.6million local drive, which will be adopted by every eligible council in the country following a pilot project, will help them turn their lives around within three years.

But Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has insisted that problem families would not get “special treatment”.

“It is great news that every upper-tier authority has agreed to run this programme in their area,” he said. “The fast and unanimous level of take-up shows that the Government has got the confidence of local councils that together we can tackle a problem that councils have long grappled with.”

Elsewhere, 1,320 troubled households will be targeted by the initiative in County Durham, 450 in South Tyneside, 1,010 in Newcastle and 595 in Gateshead.

It is estimated the problem costs local authorities millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money every year.

“We cannot go on spending so much taxpayers’ money on such a small amount of families without turning their lives around once and for all,” said Mr Pickles.

“This programme is a unique opportunity to do so and I am delighted that every council has opted in.”

Under the scheme, councils which succeed in tackling problem families are to be paid up to £4,000 for each household whose lives they turn around.

“We now have an opportunity to offer real and lasting change for these families and the communities around them,” said Mr Pickles. “Everyone will benefit from getting kids off the streets and into school, getting parents off benefits and into work, and cutting youth crime and antisocial behaviour.”

It is understood the Government has taken £448million 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 per cent of costs and councils who want to use it will have to agree to fund the other 60 per cent themselves.

Coun Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said: “The council is keen to support families across the county, especially those who may need extra help. As the local authority we have a key role to play in helping all our residents to play a full and valued part in their communities.”

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