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Evaluation of Intensive Family Support Projects in Scotland

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3. Referrals to the Projects

Chapter summary

In keeping with the nature of reported antisocial behaviour more widely, family misconduct triggering referral for Project support usually involved excess noise (in 73% of all cases). Well over half of referrals (62%) were also triggered by 'youth nuisance'; in almost two thirds (65%) of cases children were implicated in ASB, with only 35% of cases where such misconduct was believed to be perpetrated only by adult family members. The seriousness of ASB prompting referrals is indicated by the 44% of cases where there was police involvement at the point of referral and by the fact that three quarters (74%) had been warned or charged by the police in the preceding three years (usually in relation to ASB rather than (or as well as) other offences).

Although ASB complaints about referred families had been ongoing for more than a year in most cases (60%), the typical duration of such problems varied considerably across the five Projects. In particular, the profile for Dundee was quite different from the norm, with more than two thirds (68%) of Dundee's cases involving ASB complaints dating back less than 12 months. This appears consistent with the suggestion that, being far more long-established than the other Projects, DFP is more able to encourage and accept referrals at an earlier stage in a family's offending behaviour.

Some 42% of all referred families were secure tenants in social housing under threat of eviction. A similar proportion (43%) were considered by Project workers to be at 'high risk' of family breakdown at the point of referral, usually on account of the possibility that children would be taken into local authority care.

Most referrals (62%) involved single parent families. Family size tended to be larger than the national norm, at 4.3 persons; almost a fifth of families contained five or more children. At the same time, however, almost half (48%) of referrals involved families containing two children or fewer.

In almost every referred family (92%) at least one family member was disabled or suffering from ill-health of one kind or another. Well over half (58%) contained one or more family members subject to depression. Frequent school absence was an issue in well over a third (39%) of families.

3.1 Background

3.1 The findings in this report are based on the statistical analysis of 'inward referral' monitoring forms provided by the five intensive family support projects which form the subject of this evaluation. The forms were designed mainly to help the researchers to address the following questions:

(a). who is helped by the projects?

(b). what kinds of 'unacceptable behaviour' trigger referrals?

(c). what kinds of problems and needs do service users have?

About the data

3.2 It should be emphasised that the data recorded via the monitoring forms reflects the views and opinions of project staff and other agencies. For families referred for Project support, this information will have been sourced mainly from information provided by the referring agency and from subsequent meetings with the family during the assessment period. The typically intensive nature of the assessment process should reduce the risk that significant details about a family's circumstances and needs will be unknown to the project worker at this point in the process.

Scope of the analysis

3.3 The data collected relates to information on the 84 families referred to five projects from 1 December 2006 to 30 June 2008 and accepted for project support. It therefore excludes the four referrals recorded as having been assessed and rejected during this period (see Section 2.6).

3.2 ASB history prior to referral

Nature of previous ASB

3.4 As shown in Figure 3.1, complaints relating to noise disturbances were the most common problem associated with the families referred to the five projects. Almost three quarters (73%) of the 84 referred had evoked complaints where 'excess noise' was an aspect of the problem. This finding reflects the general pattern of ASB across Scotland as a whole. Concerns associated with youth nuisance, abusive language and intimidation were identified in around half of the households referred, while damage to households' own homes, alcohol and vandalism within the wider community were a concern amongst one-thirds of the families.

Figure 3.1 - Types of ASB complaint previously recorded about household members

Figure 3.1 - Types of ASB complaint previously recorded about household members

3.5 In general, problem behaviour was not confined to one type of ASB. For example, 43% of those reportedly responsible for noise disturbance were also accused of damaging their properties. There were also links between certain types of behaviour - for example noise and alcohol related nuisance. In all but three of the 30 cases involving alcohol misuse, there were also reports of excess noise. Similarly, in 75% of households reportedly responsible for 'youth nuisance' there was also excess noise.

3.6 In gauging the seriousness of ASB on the part of families referred to the projects it is notable that there was police involvement with respect to 44% of families at the point of referral. Almost three quarters (74%) included individuals who had been warned or charged by the police in the previous three years. This figure ranged from 47% of cases in Dundee to 100% in South Lanarkshire. In most cases, prior police involvement had been triggered by ASB: 61% of families contained persons previously warned or charged by the police for ASB-related activities.

3.7 Analysis of the profile of families experiencing complaints about youth nuisance also revealed a link between these reports and the incidence of other issues affecting the child's education. As might be expected, the incidence of issues such as ADHD, children in special education and temporary exclusion were all associated with higher levels of youth nuisance. For example, while ADHD was identified as an issue for one or more children in 14% of all families supported by the Projects, the same was true for 23% of families where youth nuisance was a documented problem (see Table 3.1).

Table 3.1 - Link between youth nuisance and issues affecting child's education

Educational Issue

Issue reported*

% of cases where youth nuisance reported

% of all cases

Yes

No

ADHD

12

40

23

14

Special education

10

42

19

11

Temporary exclusion

20

32

38

23

Source: Inward referrals monitoring returns *that is, issue recorded by caseworker on inward referral form as relevant to the family concerned (one or more children affected)

Duration of ASB prior to referral

3.8 In most cases (60%) ASB complaints had been ongoing for at least a year at the time of the assessment decision (see Table 3.2). However, in only 18% of instances had ASB reportedly been an issue for more than two years 8. Perhaps significantly, the profile of Dundee cases was markedly different from the norm here. In more than two thirds of Dundee's cases (68%) ASB had been an issue for less than a year (compared with 40% across all five projects). This appears consistent with the suggestion that, being far more long-established than the other Projects, DFP is more able to encourage and accept referrals at an earlier stage in a family's offending behaviour (see Chapter 2).

Table 3.2 - Duration of ASB complaints (length of time prior to Project assessment decision)

Project name

Less than 12 months (%)

1-2 years (%)

3-5 years (%)

5 years or more (%)

Total (%)

No of families

Aberdeen Families Project

33

58

0

8

100

12

Dundee Families Project

68

26

5

0

100

19

Falkirk

25

44

13

19

100

16

P4 Perth

52

33

14

0

100

21

South Lanarkshire

17

50

17

17

100

12

All

43

40

10

8

100

80

Source: Inward referrals monitoring returns. Note: Data unavailable for 4 cases.

Individuals responsible for ASB

3.9 In 82 cases information was available on which member of the family was involved in ASB. In 27% of cases misbehaviour was attributed only to children, while in a further 38% both adults and children had been involved. In over a third of cases (35%) only adults had been responsible. This finding could be seen as qualifying the view that IFSPs are primarily concerned with parenting interventions triggered by ASB committed by 'unruly children'.

3.10 Of the 84 families, just over a third (35%) were classed as being victimised by others, as well as perpetrating ASB. This tended to involve intimidation or damage to the ( IFSP service user) family's home (see Figure 3.2). Whether such victimisation is purely retaliatory cannot be determined from the pro-forma data.

Figure 3.2 - Types of ASB reportedly inflicted on service user families

Figure 3.2 - Types of ASB reportedly inflicted on service user families

Action taken to combat ASB

3.11 In understanding how IFSP services fit within the wider framework of tackling anti-social behaviour consideration needs to be given to the measures already implemented to address the problem before referrals are made. For example, to what extent are referred families placed under pressure to engage with Project services because of the explicit threat of eviction?

3.12 In exploring this issue it is first necessary to understand families' housing circumstances at the point of referral. Fifty-five service user families were secure tenants in social housing at the time of their referral to the relevant Project (51 renting from local authorities, with four renting from housing associations). Taking account of missing data this represented 69% of all service users. It is assumed that most of the remaining 31% will have been families already made homeless 9, possibly due to ASB (whether or not through eviction).

3.13 Among the 55 service users retaining a secure tenancy, 35 (64%) faced some threat of losing their home (see Table 3.3). In most such cases (20 of 35) this amounted only to a verbal or written warning. However, fifteen families had been served with a Notice of Proceedings or had an eviction order already outstanding.(theoretically, some of the orders could have been obtained for rent arrears rather than ASB). Nevertheless, the scenario of being referred to a Project under threat of eviction from a secure tenancy was true for only 42% of all referred families (35 of 84).

Table 3.3 - Legal or enforcement-type action against families prior to referral

Threat to secure tenancy

ABC/ ASBO

None

Total**

Warning only

NOP

None

ABC(s)

ASBO(s)

LA/ RSL secure tenancy

20

15

20

4

5

18

55

Homeless temporary accommodation and other*

NA

NA

NA

4

2

9

29

Total

20

15

20

8

7

27

84

Source: Inward referrals monitoring returns. *Includes four cases where the tenure was not known **Numbers in this column are the totals of those in LA/ RSL tenancies (row 1), and in temporary accommodation (row 2). The numbers of cases in each row do not sum to this' total' figure because some of the families concerned will have been subject to two or more measures (e.g. NOP and ASBO).

3.14 A small proportion of families also had Acceptable Behaviour Contracts ( ABCs) and/or Antisocial Behaviour Orders ( ASBOs) outstanding with respect to one or more family members. The relatively small proportion of families subject to ASBOs might be thought surprising. However, under the Scottish regime (unlike in England) ASBOs are primarily applicable to ASB involving adults. Hence, where families are referred because of misbehaviour on the part of children it would be uncommon for a family member to have been subject to an ASBO. What is perhaps more unexpected is that only eight families were recorded as including members subject to ABCs. In no case was a Parenting Order recorded as being in place (consistent with the understanding that, at the time of the research no Parenting Orders had yet been instituted in Scotland).

3.15 Overall, almost a third of all families (27 of 84) were recorded as having been subject to no enforcement action prior to referral (see Table 3.3).

3.3 Characteristics of families referred

Household type, size and composition

3.16 Across all five projects, the average size of referred families was 4.3 persons, with 2.9 children (see Table 3.4). However, there was some variation between the caseloads taken on by each Project; notably, the average size of families accepted for support by the South Lanarkshire BtC Project was substantially greater than the corresponding figure for Dundee (see Table 3.4).

Table 3.4 - Inward referrals - family membership

Adults

Children

Families

Avg no. of children

Avg. family size

Aberdeen Families Project

16

31

12

2.6

3.9

Dundee Families Project

23

45

19

2.4

3.6

Falkirk

27

60

19

3.2

4.6

P4 Perth

34

64

22

2.9

4.5

South Lanarkshire

16

45

12

3.8

5.1

All

116

245

84

2.9

4.3

Source: Inward referrals monitoring returns

Table 3.5 - Inward referrals: household composition

Project name

Single adult

Single parent, small family

Single parent, large family

Two adults, no children

Two parents, small family

Two parents, large family

Extended family

Total

Aberdeen Families Project

4

4

3

1

12

Dundee Families Project

11

4

2

2

19

Falkirk

4

7

5

3

19

P4 Perth

1

4

6

1

3

6

1

22

South Lanarkshire

3

5

4

12

All - no

1

26

26

1

13

16

1

84

All - %

1

31

31

1

15

19

1

100

Source: Inward referrals monitoring returns. Note: 'household' includes all members of the family living together at the point of referral as well as children or others currently living outwith the family unit (e.g. in secure accommodation) but expected to rejoin the family unit within six months.

3.17 The composition of families being referred to the five projects is examined in more detail in Table 3.5. As shown here, 62% of the households referred to the projects were single parent families. Large families - households including three or more children - accounted for exactly half the caseload. In almost a fifth of cases (16 of 84) families contained five or more children and the overall average number of children per household was 2.9. This compares with the Scottish average which was 1.6 in 2005 (General Register Office, 2005). Hence, while large families were far from dominant, they were substantially represented within Project caseloads.

3.18 It should also be noted that not all the 'families' defined as individual 'referrals' involved groups of individuals all living as part of a single household. In some cases, older sons, daughters or partners living outwith the main family home were treated as service users by the Projects. The individuals concerned could have been staying with relatives, in prison or in local authority care. In some cases they had set up their own independent households (e.g. in the case of an older teenager taking on some form of tenancy, perhaps with a partner).

Age and gender of family members

3.19 Of the 76 heads of household for whom data on gender and age were available, 82% were female. Most household heads were aged 25-44 (see Table 3.6).

Table 3.6 - Inward referrals: age and gender of head of household

<20

20-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

55+

Total

Female

4

8

28

15

6

1

62

Male

2

2

5

4

1

14

All

4

10

30

20

10

2

76

Source: Inward referrals monitoring returns. Note: data missing for 8 cases

3.20 As shown in Table 3.7, a third of the referred households (29 of 83) contained no children aged over nine. This helps to confirm that far from all of the ASB problems prompting referrals to the Projects stemmed from 'rowdy teenagers'. Caseload profiles varied significantly across projects in this respect, with over half of the P4 Perth referrals involving families with older children only.

Table 3.7 - Age of children in referred households

Project name

Under 10 only

Under 10 and 10 plus

10 plus only

None

Grand Total

Aberdeen Families Project

5

3

3

1

12

Dundee Families Project

10

4

5

19

Falkirk

11

3

5

19

P4 Perth

2

7

11

1

21

South Lanarkshire

1

8

3

12

All

29

25

27

2

83

Source: Inward referrals monitoring returns. Note: data missing for 1 case

Economic status and indebtedness

3.21 Only 14 of 110 adult family members (for which data were available) were employed at the point of referral. Almost a quarter (24%) had never been employed.

3.22 Two thirds (42%) of families referred to the projects were recorded as having some form of debt at the point of referral (see Table 3.8). However, this is likely to be an underestimate because of incomplete information available to Project workers completing inward referral monitoring returns. The commonest form of debt was rent arrears. In a number of cases this amounted to more than £1,000.

Table 3.8 - Inward referrals: incidence of debt problems

Debt

Number

%

Social Fund*

14

17

Utilities

17

20

Rent arrears

31

37

Bank loan

2

2

Credit card

3

4

Other debt

29

35

None

29

35

Source: Inward referrals monitoring returns. * A source of DWP loans to pay for basic furniture.

Health and education

3.23 Virtually all referred families (92%) included a member experiencing one or more of the disability or health problems specified in Figure 5. In over a fifth of families, the adult 'head of household' was affected by three or more of these conditions. Only 14% were recorded as including no family member with a health problem.

3.24 Among adults the single most common problem was depression. This affected at least one adult family member in 58% of the 84 families (see Figure 3.3). In more than a third of families Project staff judged that one or members was affected by learning difficulties. It should be noted that given the personal nature of many health problems the issues identified in Figure 3.3 probably represent only a partial picture.

Figure 3.3 - Inward referrals: incidence of disability or health problems

Figure 3.3 - Inward referrals: incidence of disability or health problems

3.25 As shown in Figure 3.4, well over a third of families referred for Project support contained one or more children who were frequently absent from school. In just over a fifth of families a child's behaviour at school had been so problematic that it had resulted in formal exclusion (usually temporary rather than permanent).

Figure 3.4 - Inward referrals: issues affecting children's education

Figure 3.4 - Inward referrals: issues affecting children's education

3.4 Violence within the family and risk of family breakdown

3.26 Violence within the home was not uncommon within referred families, with such abuse believed by Project workers to affect about a quarter (24%) of the total caseload. This could take the form of child on adult violence, as well as abuse of children (see Table 3.9)

Table 3.9 - Family Violence among household members referred to the projects

Family violence

Number

% of families

Adult on adult

15

18%

Child on adult

9

11%

Sexual abuse

0

0%

Other abuse of children by adults

16

19%

Source: inward referral monitoring returns. Base = 84 families

Table 3.10 - Inward referrals: risk of family breakdown as assessed by Project staff

Project name

High

Medium

Low

Total

Aberdeen Families Project

5

6

1

12

Dundee Families Project

12

1

6

19

Falkirk

4

6

8

18

P4 Perth

4

7

8

19

South Lanarkshire

9

2

1

12

All - no

34

22

24

80

All - %

43

28

30

100

Source: inward referral monitoring returns. Base=80 families - missing data for four families

3.27 Over two thirds of families were assessed as at moderate or high risk of family breakdown (see Table 3.10); most families referred to the Dundee and South Lanarkshire Projects were classed as at 'high risk' - see Table 3.10.

3.28 On a closely related question, almost two thirds of families were judged by Project staff as at moderate or high risk of having a child or children needing to be looked after and accommodated (see Table 3.11). However, only 27% were assessed as 'high risk' cases in this respect.

Table 3.11 - Assessed risk of children needing to be looked after and accommodated

Project name

High

Medium

Low

Total

Aberdeen Families Project

3

2

7

12

Dundee Families Project

12

3

4

19

Falkirk

2

3

10

15

P4

2

8

6

16

South Lanarkshire

9

2

1

12

All - no

28

18

28

74

All - %

38

24

38

100

Source: inward referral monitoring returns Base = 74 families - missing data for 10 families

3.5 Housing circumstances

3.29 As shown earlier (see Table 3.4) about two thirds of the households referred to the Projects were secure tenants in social housing. Table 3.12 presents a more detailed breakdown, differentiating referrals by Project. Nearly a quarter of referrals (20) were classed as 'other' in terms of housing tenure. Most of these were recorded as having experienced homelessness during the previous two years. It is, therefore, assumed that many of the group whose tenure was given as 'other' were homeless households living in temporary accommodation (in addition to the two who were specifically classed as such). In addition, some of those concerned could have been people occupying social housing but whose tenancies had been 'demoted' to (insecure) Short Scottish Secure Tenancy ( SSST) status. Across all 79 families for whom data was available, 25 (32%) had experienced homelessness in the previous two years.

Table 3.12 - Tenure at point of referral

Project

LASST

RSLSST

Owner occupier

Homeless temp accom

Other

Not specified

Total

Aberdeen Families Project

5

1

1

5

12

Dundee Families Project

11

1

7

19

Falkirk

13

2

1

3

19

P4 Perth

17

1

3

1

22

South Lanarkshire

5

2

1

4

12

All

51

4

3

2

20

4

84

Source: inward referral monitoring returns

3.30 As shown in Table 3.13, appreciable numbers of referred families were living in homes which (as judged by Project workers) had significant shortcomings. For example, a quarter of secure tenants (11 of 55) were seen as needing major repairs to their house. The incidence of what Project workers saw as 'overcrowding' (15 of 84 families) should be seen within the context of the relatively substantial proportion of larger families in the overall caseload (see Table 3.5 and accompanying text).

Table 3.13 - Inward referrals - concerns about current home

'Needs minor repairs'

'Needs major repairs'

'Too small'

'Damp' and/or 'cold'

(Total in tenure)

LASST

22

9

10

8

(51)

RSLSST

2

1

2

(4)

Owner occupier

2

(3)

Homeless ( LA temp accom)

1

1

(2)

Other

8

3

2

(20)

Blank

1

(4)

Total

33

11

15

13

(84)

Source: inward referral monitoring returns

Table 3.14 - Satisfaction with neighbourhood

High

Medium

Low

Total

Aberdeen Families Project

3

2

6

11

Dundee Families Project

2

6

10

18

Falkirk

4

5

9

18

P4 Perth

5

12

5

22

South Lanarkshire

1

1

10

12

All - no

15

26

40

81

All - %

19

32

49

100

Source: Inward referrals monitoring returns. Note: base = 81 - missing data for 3 cases

3.31 Overall, satisfaction with the local neighbourhood was fairly low across all five projects (see Table 3.14). In only 15 cases was satisfaction with the local neighbourhood described as high. This may reflect the filtering effects of social housing allocations systems, especially in the way that families made homeless due to anti-social behaviour appeared liable to be offered temporary accommodation in less attractive neighbourhoods, but it is also likely to reflect conflict with neighbours.