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Helping Job Centre staff ‘Think Family’ in Cambridgeshire

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Transforming public services to work with families with multiple and complex problems in an integrated, whole-family way, is one of the Troubled Families Programme’s objectives and is key to delivery of the local programme in Cambridgeshire. This includes helping all frontline workers, whatever their profession or specialism, to ‘Think Family,’ instead of just dealing with one individual person or issue.

In Cambridgeshire, Troubled Family Employment Advisers (TFEAs) have been sharing the principles of their ‘Think Family’ approach with Jobcentre Plus colleagues.

We began by interviewing work coaches to find out how well they already understood the approach to ‘Think Family’. These interviews revealed that there was a knowledge gap around sources of locally available support and work coaches did not have enough contact with the lead professionals working with troubled families.

Our TFEAs devised a training session to help improve awareness of and access to, sources of support. This training explained:

  • what a work coach should do if they had safeguarding concerns about a claimant or another family member, including available training and how to make a referral to local authority services
  • how to ‘think family’ when talking to claimants about their circumstances
  • the role of the troubled families lead professional and other leads in areas such as mental health, and how the work coach can work collaboratively with those professionals
  • the role of the ‘team around the family’, and the work coach’s role within that team

The feedback from work coaches shows that this has had a big impact and helped them in their work with families.

"I now understand how to look more closely at the underlying issues rather than the symptoms presented during our interventions."

Amanda Reeder - Ely, Jobcentre Plus Work Coach

"Diane* had a troubled life, often getting in with the wrong crowd and she soon found herself taking drugs. Then, around 18 months ago, her child was taken into care.

Diane was attending her local Jobcentre; she was angry, uncooperative and often aggressive. She was frequently failing to attend her appointments. Things were not getting any better. I could see that she had some wider issues and needed additional support, simply enforcing the rules was getting us nowhere fast.

Over a period of time I have built a good relationship with a TFEA  from Cambridgeshire County Council, and by working with them, I began to understand what it must be like for Diane. This helped me to identify actions and strategies that would empower Diane to find her own solutions.

Through the TFEA I came to know that Diane had a Lead Professional from ‘The Space Project’[1], so I encouraged her to invite the Lead Professional to her interviews. Diane was initially against this as she felt like she was being trapped. However, I was able to reassure her and address her concerns so that we could focus on the positives and making progress.

Diane had lost confidence in the agencies and staff that had been involved in her life. She felt very much that everyone was out to get her or trip her up.. Being aware of how Diane felt and working together with the Lead professional we were able to help Diane see the whole picture, helping her to regain some trust meant that the issues she had been bottling up were now starting to be addressed.

She was engaging more and more and she has now started to see that in the future she can be a much better place. Getting closer to work, improving her self esteem and building better relationships are all helping Diane to reach her goal of being a great mum.

I feel that the support we are now more able to provide makes my job more satisfying and more importantly, facilitates long-term sustainable changes for our most vulnerable claimants."

Please leave us a comment below or email if you would like to find out more or see our slide pack for the work coach training.

Alison Smith & Ken Pottle

Troubled Families Coordinator & Troubled Families Employment Adviser
Cambridgeshire County Council and Department for Work and Pensions

Email contact:

[1] The Space Project supports women who have had repeat removals of children from their care.

*Name altered to protect identity.

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