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"intensive care sin bins"
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Sin bins scheme
for 1,500 antisocial families a year
· Major expansion for plan to tackle bad neighbours
· Units will provide round the clock supervision
Thursday April 12, 2007
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
More than 1,500 families a year, dubbed neighbours from hell, are to be placed
in "intensive care sin bins" under a big expansion announced yesterday of the
government's family intervention programme.
The £15m scheme is designed to tackle the most badly behaved families in
England by moving them into dedicated residential units with round the clock
supervision by social care workers, providing support, parenting advice and
There is no legal compulsion on the problem families to live in the specialist
units but those that do can avoid permanent eviction from council housing,
prosecution for antisocial behaviour, or their children being taken into care.
Many disruptive families in the programme also face curfews and bans on
late-night visitors, and will get drug and alcohol treatment as well as money
and parenting advice as part of the attempt to tackle the specific causes in
The family intervention programme is modelled on the Dundee Family Project,
started 10 years ago by the local council's social work and housing departments
and NCH Action for Children Scotland.
There are currently 572 problem families, targeted by 38 projects. The extra
£15m will fund a two-year expansion, with a further 1,000 project workers
trained to deliver parenting programmes and intensive support.
Louise Casey, the "respect tsar" responsible for coordinating the antisocial
behaviour programme, said yesterday that the number of family intervention
projects working with the most difficult families was being expanded to 53,
dealing with 1,500 problem families a year: "This minority of feckless and
disruptive families can cause untold misery to those who have to live alongside
them and destroy entire neighbourhoods with their frightening and disruptive
"These projects, a flagship part of the respect programme, grip families and use
enforcement action and intensive help, and are proven to turn families around.
These are families that in the past may have been written off by agencies as
lost causes - but now they will be offered the right help and incentives to
become decent members of their community and give their children the opportunity
to grow up with a chance in life."
Research published yesterday by Sheffield Hallam University, focusing on 256
problem families who had been referred to the projects after being threatened
with eviction or homelessness, showed that in 85% of cases their behaviour had
The main types of antisocial behaviour involved were youth nuisance [70%],
general neighbour conflicts [54%] and property damage [43%]. More than 60% of
the families had three or more children.
Poor mental health and/or drug and alcohol misuse affected 80% of adults
involved and more than half involved cases of intimate partner violence or
intergenerational violence within the family. The research showed that nearly
40% were at high or medium risk of having their children taken into care.
The projects typically involve three levels of intervention: "sin bins", managed
council housing blocks of several problem families with 24-hour on-site
supervision; a middle tier where families are managed but dispersed in the
community; and the lowest tier, providing support in their own homes to
antisocial families threatened with eviction.
At a glance: Family intervention
The projects are officially described as "difficult schemes to run and hard
to get right but can pay enormous dividends". They are designed to turn around
the behaviour of families and reduce their impact on their community.
The role of the key worker is to "grip" the family's problems using support and
sanctions to motivate them.
A contract is drawn up between the family and key worker which sets out the
changes expected, the support that will be provided, and the consequences if
changes are not made.
Sanctions are important and include the threat of demoting a tenancy or gaining
a suspended possession order linked to compliance with the project. For some,
the prospect of children being taken into care breaks the feeling that they are
Practical projects such as teaching parents how to get children up and fed,
clearing up, preparing meals and bedtime routines are used to provide structure
to chaotic lives.
Costs: average costs range from £8,000 per family to provide support in their
own home or a managed property to £15,000 for intensive support in a residential
unit. Supporters claim these cost must be set against the costs of damage to
society of a "neighbours from hell" family of £250,000 a year.
Sin bins scheme for 1,500 antisocial families a year,
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