£84 million for projects that support families

Children in and on the edge of care will benefit from £84 million of new investment for projects designed to strengthen and support families.

Marking the 30th anniversary of the Children Act, the Department for Education funding will enable 20 councils to receive funding to help improve their practice, supporting families to stay together wherever appropriate, so that fewer children need to be taken into care and giving them the best chance to succeed in life.

Three ‘early adopters’, Darlington, Cambridgeshire and Middlesbrough, have been unveiled to deliver one of three landmark projects originally run through the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme. The launch of the government’s Strengthening Families, Protecting Children programme will start work to roll out the three successful projects to other eligible councils, where there are persistently high numbers of children being taken into care.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “Every child deserves to grow up in a stable, loving family and go through life confident that someone always has your back. But for too many children, this is simply not a reality. With the number of children in care rising, many of these children face a far starker version of reality, one where their parents are in the grips of their own nightmare, through mental health problems, the trauma of domestic violence or an addiction.

“We must assist those parents facing difficulties and work with them to strengthen their family relationships so they can properly support their children. In the year that sees the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Act, we must stay true to its heart – that where possible and safe, children are best brought up, loved and supported by their parents. As a government, we want to strengthen families so that, wherever possible, they stay together and provide their children with a safe and stable home life. As Education Secretary, it’s my job to make sure what works to keep families together and change lives, is available to more children and families in need.”

The projects were originally developed by Leeds, Hertfordshire and North Yorkshire councils – all rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. Currently, outcomes for children in care are poor compared with their peers. They are half as likely to meet the expected standards at age 11 and are a quarter as likely to achieve good GCSEs. Into adulthood they continue to have poor outcomes: 39 per cent of all care leavers are ‘not in education, employment or training’ against 12 per cent of their peers, and are five times more likely to experience the criminal justice system.

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