A new £1.5m scheme is set to help hundreds of County Durham families to get out of the unemployment trap.
It will give specialist and intensive support to the families who need it the most – helping those with a long history of worklessness to overcome the barriers they face in finding employment.
The Families with Multiple Problems Programme is a government scheme, funded through the European Social Fund, set up following a pledge from the Prime Minister to help the most needy families across the country by 2015.
The Government has already named The Wise Group as the preferred bidder to run the programme in the North East, where the project will be called FamilyWise.
In County Durham, Durham County Council has been chosen to deliver the scheme on behalf of The Wise Group, which is expected to reach approximately 1,265 people from families across the county over the next three years.
The county council was selected to deliver the scheme due to the fact that it is already working with families who would be eligible for the support and is already offering a range of existing services to tackle the multiple and complex issues they face.
To be eligible at least one member of the family must be on benefits due to unemployment and there must be a history of worklessness in the family.
Cllr Neil Foster, Cabinet member for regeneration and economic development at Durham County Council, said: “It is a real feather in the cap for the county council to have been selected to deliver this programme, which will help to transform the lives of hundreds of County Durham families.
“The primary aim of the programme is to help people who are struggling to find work to overcome the barriers which are stopping them from getting a job.
“But its success will have consequences that will be much more far-reaching – with a key goal being to help improve the lives of the children and young people in the families involved.
“This scheme will not only help to tackle child poverty, we believe it will also help to raise the aspirations of children and young people by breaking the unemployment cycle within the family.”
Laurie Russell, chief executive of The Wise Group, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won this contract. We look forward to working with Durham County Council and third sector partners to deliver this valuable support for families from across the North East.”
The scheme will link in with existing support networks currently provided to families by Durham County Council and its partners. These include the council’s family intervention programme, One Point integrated children’s services, family pathfinder and social inclusion teams as well as housing services and training and employment support.
The teams will continue to provide support to families in each of their specialist areas and will then refer people who are eligible on to the programme.
Additional workers, including employment coaches, job placement and training officers will be recruited – using part of the European Social Fund money – to provide the specialist employment support.
Members of Durham County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to note the opportunities the scheme will bring in helping to support the most needy families when they meet on Wednesday (January 25) at County Hall.