£1.4m spent helping troubled teens should mean fewer end up in care
ROLE-PLAYING will be used to help parents control their children as part of a £1.4 million scheme aimed at halving the number of Derby youngsters going into care.
The city council has agreed a contract with charity Action for Children to provide the new service, which will help 40 to 50 families a year.
Parents with 12-to-17-year-olds who are young offenders will benefit from therapists who will visit their homes for several hours a week in a bid to help them get control.
They will also have access to a 24-hour helpline.
Aurora Meneses da Silva, Action for Children co-ordinator for the scheme, said one way parents would be helped was through role-playing.
She gave the example of a single parent trying to get a troubled son to stick to a curfew.
Mrs da Silva said: "We'd discuss with the parents what they expect to get out of the exercise and what they have tried before that didn't work.
"Then we would develop a plan. For example, what could the son get as a reward for being home at 9pm on weeknights – perhaps being able to see their friends more at the weekend?
"And what would happen if they didn't come in on time?
"We would then role-play the conversations the parents would have with their child to set this up.
"It's about making it real in their minds."
Mrs da Silva added that families may also be encouraged to "brainstorm" together on how they would solve a problem.
The therapists will make follow-up calls to find out how new techniques have gone and be on hand to answer questions.
Families with young offenders would be referred to the new service – called Multi Systemic Therapy – by police, schools or the NHS.
Each case would then be put before a panel including educational and child psychologists and social care workers who decide whether they are appropriate for the scheme.
Action for Children is employing four new therapists, who will each help between four and six families at a time.
The Department of Health and Department for Education will jointly provide £700,000 for the first two years of the scheme. The city council will pay the same amount for the next two years.
Councillor Martin Rawson, cabinet member for children and young people, said he believed the spending would lead to long-term savings for public organisations as fewer youngsters would go into care and commit crimes.
Where MST has been used before, research showed that the number of 12-to-17-year-olds being placed out of home reduces by between 47% and 64%. And the amount of offending from youngsters in families which take part goes down by 41%.
Mr Rawson said: "About 200 of 470 Derby children in care are aged from 12 to 17 and this new approach will reduce the number of children coming into care in this age group.
"The investment will pay off as we won't have as many children in care. It's good for us financially and, more importantly, for young people as it addresses their behavioural problems."