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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 March 2008, 13:40 GMT
'We didn't know how to handle them'
By Sarah Bell
BBC News

The government has launched a 218m expansion of family intervention projects across England to help stop young people spiralling into bad behaviour. One family explains how the scheme transformed their lives.

The Farmer family
The Farmers' home is now 'peaceful'

The Farmer family from Southend know only too well how hard it can be to keep children in check.

They were evicted from their home because of their nightmare teenagers and the family almost split up.

But a year ago they enlisted in a project that turned their lives around.

The eldest of Nicola and Brian Farmer's five children were causing trouble in the local area, drinking, smoking and not going to school.

Their attempts at punishment failed and the couple did not know what to do.

"It was an absolute nightmare. We were going through a bad patch and thought the family was going to split up," Mr Farmer, 39, said.

'Parents do care'

Mrs Farmer said: "They tell you how to bring up babies, but they don't tell you how to bring up teenagers.

"I didn't know what to do. It is hard having children of different ages, trying to deal with all of their needs, I didn't know how to do it.

"Parents do care, but they don't know how to handle it."

The couple decided to seek help and contacted the family intervention project, which in Southend is run by the Youth Offending team.

It starts by speaking to each member of the family to assess their needs.

It then offers services including counselling and anger management, plus teaching about the dangers of alcohol and the consequences of bad behaviour.

Families are taught how to communicate with each other better and how to solve problems.

It has brought us back together as a family instead of being torn apart
Brian Farmer

In fact, the Southend project boasts its own "Supergrandad" - "like Supernanny but without the naughty step", says Carol Compton from the youth offending team - who watches the family and teaches them how to solve issues.

And the parents themselves were shown how to improve their relationship.

Mrs Farmer said: "We now have more time for ourselves, which we didn't before as there was so much going on in the house with dealing with the kids."

The scheme also provides practical help. Workers can turn up at the house every morning to ensure the children are up and take them to school.

They can help with hygiene and tidy up the house.

The Farmers are a clear success story and have completed the scheme.

"We have turned our lives around. It has brought us back together as a family instead of being torn apart.

"We're happy, a family unit now, instead of World War IV," Mr Farmer said.

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