OVER the past two years council officers have helped to turn around the lives of 82 troubled families in Swindon.

Troubled families are those that have children with high levels of truancy or have been expelled from school, anti-social behaviour is rife and at least one adult is on out-of-work benefits.

It is estimated that each troubled family costs the tax-payer, on average, about £75,000 each.

In total 370 such families have been identified within the borough and the council is actively working with 286 of them.

Progress is considered to be made if children who were excluded or truanting have been in school for three consecutive terms.

A case is also considered a success if there has been a significant reduction in anti-social behaviour or an adult living in the household has been in employment for three months in a row.

Under the programme a team from the council works with the whole family on all of its problems in an intensive and coordinated way. The aim is to tackle all of the problems rather than just individual ones so a long-term solution is found.

This approach means the families are working with only a handful of officers as opposed to a different one for each problem.

Sue Wald, head of commisioning for children and adults at Swindon Council, said: “It is an approach which has been going for several years. We are able to identify troubled families using data which the council has.

“There were several families who were already known to us then, so we made sure the professional working with them was fully trained.

“For those we had no contact with, a letter was sent out asking if we could meet with them and in most cases they are willing to do that.

“We are now working with just under 300 families.

“Very often it is about setting up a routine with the families, such as getting the children up and then into school.

“There is a cross-agency approach so we can avoid families having to speak with numerous people.

“We have contact with the Jobcentre Plus, the police and the housing associations, so we are helping each family. We have helped 82 so far and aim to help every family by April next year.”

The approach is being taken across the country by local authorites.

In the same period, Wiltshire Council helped 213 troubled families having identified 510.