Wales

England's' families scheme 'may work in Wales', says MP

Child and bicycle
Image caption There are policies helping families in Wales, the Welsh government says

A scheme which is tackling anti-social behaviour in England and has turned around the lives of 53,000 families could work in Wales, the MP for one of its most deprived areas said.

Blaenau Gwent's Nick Smith said "troubled families" has got many adults in work and children in education.

But one expert said the initiative tended to "stigmatise" families.

The Welsh government said it funds job projects and ones keeping children out of care and families together.

David Cameron announced this week that the scheme would now look to help a total of 500,000 families.

Mr Smith helped to scrutinise the UK government's programme as a member of the public administration committee.

'Bigger picture'

"We're all sick of anti-social behaviour and it costs £70,000 to put a young person in jail," he said.

"We don't want to be spending that sort of money and we don't want youngsters in jail. We want them in school, educated and in good employment.

"What does happen, of course, is that people work in silos and it can be quite difficult to look around you and see what you do can have an impact on other agencies.

"You can't solve that overnight, but if you've got this one person that does have both the bigger picture, understands the needs of the families and is quite hard at making sure those things are turned around, I think that can make a big difference and can help negotiate with all these agencies that are out there."

Mr Smith said the UK programme has shown it can turn lives around.

Image caption Nick Smith said the programme has shown it can turn lives around

"They've gathered more evidence, worked out what works, I think that's worth looking at in Wales to see if all the different things that are happening in Wales could be pulled together, integrated and really make a difference for these families.

"There's no problem at all from learning from your neighbours and if there's something next door that's a good initiative let's take a peek at it and see if it can work round here."

But Cardiff University Prof Sally Holland said the "troubled families" initiative had tended to "stigmatise" families and the UK government's budget cuts for preventative work was in contrast to the Welsh government's approach.

"There are still going to be families falling through the gaps - we're facing unprecedented spending cuts," she said.

"A few families are always in any society going to need additional help and we need to be able to help them as well, but it's got to be about the early preventative services and in the long run investing in those will save money."

A Welsh government spokesperson said it already supports families through different projects.

"Our Lift programme provides training and employment opportunities for households where no-one is in work and Communities First is narrowing the economic, education and health gaps between our most deprived and more affluent areas.

"Families First plays a key role in addressing child poverty and Integrated Family Support Services helps keep children out of care and families stay together."

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