Only early intervention and a whole family approach will help vulnerable families overcome long-standing problems such as bad parenting, drug and alcohol misuse, or poor numeracy and literacy skills, according to a report published by the RSA.
Families with Multiple Problems written by Action for Children's chief executive, Dame Clare Tickell, concludes that families tackle profound inter-generational problems through proper high quality support from qualified and experienced professionals. The report identifies that rather than being the solution, employment is a goal that can only be achieved once the family unit is stable and routines have been established.
The report says that successive Prime Ministers have 'owned' this issue and pledged to resolve it, but the unintended consequences of austerity and public spending cuts mean the flow of vulnerable families will continue unless more is done to step in quickly and address the early signs of a problem.
Clare Tickell calls for a number of steps to be taken if the problem is to be tackled including:
Extending our understanding of prevention beyond the current strong commitment towards 'early years' infrastructure and - like the best children's centres and family intervention projects - develop a broad, inclusive and imaginative response for extraordinary times
Connecting isolated vulnerable families with their local communities via other services such as youth services for teenagers and community mental health services
Developing children centres as 'community hubs' in which isolated families are welcomed by staff, volunteers and other members of the community. Work must be done to ensure they become genuine community-wide assets and not ghettos for the most disadvantaged
Opening up buildings and other facilities for use by the wider community and doing more to tap into the will, commitment and energy of local people who own these community assets
Developing a compelling national narrative about both our individual and collective responsibility for ensuring enough is done for the children of troubled families
Making employment a goal to be achieved only once the family unit is stable and routines established.
Commenting on the report, Dame Clare Tickell said:
"This is a problem that's been around for generations but now we must take the opportunity to grasp it. The networks and community hubs already exist and we have the evidence for the kind of intervention that really works - now we need to support communities and the vulnerable families themselves to utilise them. There is political will for change - the government must move forward by empowering these communities to reap strong, enduring and positive rewards."