Lancashire County Council is to invest £6million into a ground-breaking scheme designed to help vulnerable children, young people and their families stay together.
The announcement comes as the Government revealed the council was one of 18 local authorities who will receive a share of £84million to fund Strengthening Families, Protecting Children schemes.
The council believes it is one of the largest authorities to receive this Government funding and therefore expects to receive a significant amount to support the Lancashire £6million commitment.
The innovative scheme aims to reduce the number of youngsters in the county being taken into care.
Specialist professionals will work with families to address some of the issues that can lead to families breaking down, such as substance misuse, domestic abuse and mental health problems.
A key part of the scheme, which will also be funded with £6million direct from the county council, will be to encourage parents to take positive steps to address any issues they may have.
It is hoped early intervention by experts will keep more families together, ensuring fewer children need to leave their homes.
This new support for families will help parents with their own issues and enable their children to stay at home wherever it is safe to do so.
It is planned that intervention through partners including schools, the police, health and other voluntary, community and faith sector organisations, will enable more families to be supported and complement the work of new family safeguarding teams.
Extra help will also be provided to children and young people when it is in their best interests to go into local authority care.
The new way of working was pioneered by Hertfordshire County Council in 2015 and has since been extended to other areas of the country.
Research has shown the scheme has the potential to reduce the number of children involved in care proceedings by around 38% over three years. In Lancashire, this would mean that significantly fewer children would be in care, compared to current figures. This also means they can stay with their families and live happily in Lancashire.
County Councillor Phillippa Williamson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “It’s fantastic news that Lancashire County Council has secured this much-needed funding.
“This is an innovative and new way of looking at the way we support children and families.
“There are currently more than 2,000 children in care in Lancashire, which is higher than the national average.
“We want to ensure the best outcome for each and every child, and believe that in some cases early intervention to address problems within a family may mean a child could remain at home with proper support.
“Research shows that if children can stay with their parents in a stable home and family environment they should.”
County Councillor Williamson added: “Of course there are cases where children absolutely have to be moved away from home because of concerns with their immediate safety and long-term wellbeing.
“However, for the majority of families, if we could support them earlier and tailor support to meet their needs, the action of removing the children may be able to be prevented before problems become more serious.
“This new approach and funding also give social workers more time to deal with these, more complex cases.”
The grant, which will see new Family Safeguarding Teams set up, will fund the new programme for three years. By the end of this period, the new Supporting Families, Protecting Children scheme will be self-funding.