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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 March 2008, 11:50 GMT
Early warning for bad behaviour
The 218m scheme promises early intervention against disruption
Troublemakers as young as 10 years old are to be asked to sign a good behaviour contract to stop them going off the rails.

About 1,000 of the "most challenging" children will be expected to stick to the order, or risk a criminal record.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls will unveil a 218m expansion of Family Intervention Projects in projects across England.

It will stop "bad behaviour spiralling into future offending", says Mr Balls.

Ministers believe youngsters often graduate from minor offences to more serious bad behaviour, leading to anti-social behaviour orders and criminal records.

These difficult children will be given one-to-one support from a care worker and will have help with specific problems, such as drug abuse.

Family breakdown

There will be 20 "intensive intervention" pilot projects launched over the next three years under the Youth Taskforce Action Plan - based on the model of the existing Family Intervention Projects.

Whoever dreamt this up has not raised young children
Phil, Glasgow

Youngsters will sign up to a contract which will be monitored by an "assertive and persistent key worker".

The support linked to to the contract is "non-negotiable", ministers say.

The plan will "go further to tackle anti-social behaviour by making sure we take strong actions to tackle the underlying causes such as substance abuse and family breakdown," Mr Balls is due to say at the scheme's launch in east London on Tuesday.

"Recognising these problems doesn't condone bad behaviour - nor is it a soft option.

'Underlying problems'

"In the end where young people and families don't accept help to change their behaviour, then the right thing to do is to use Anti-social Behaviour Orders and Individual Support Orders."

Children's minister Beverley Hughes said that "the best form of prevention is cure".

"We can spot early warning signs in young people and families where things are going wrong - poor parenting, lessons skipped and complaints about behaviour.

"To change, rather than just contain, we need tough action on the underlying problems," said the minister.

She denied the measures would replicate work already being done.

Similar projects were targeting youngsters already displaying serious anti-social behaviour but not those who were in danger of getting into that position by, for example, truanting or experimenting with drink or drugs, or were in danger of being drawn into gangs, she said.

'Parental skills'

Ms Hughes said the project would target about 50 youngsters in each of the pilot areas - parts of the country with the biggest anti-social behaviour problems.

She told BBC News: "If you can really work in a very positive way with the 50 most difficult kids who are in danger and turn those kids around then you can have a disproportionately beneficial effect."

However, youth worker Shaun Bailey, who is also Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Hammersmith, west London, said the scheme was nothing new.

He said the idea of outside help for wayward youngsters would further reinforce the "dependence" culture and discourage parents from taking responsibility for their children's actions.

He told BBC News: "We need to change the notion around parenting. So many parents up and down the country believe it is their divine right not to parent their children properly and there is absolutely no come-back."

But another youth worker, Nathan John, welcomed the plans saying: "Early intervention is definitely key, family support is great, especially for parents."

General secretary of the National Union of Teachers Steve Sinnott said a programme of early intervention was the obvious route.

"Some of our youngsters lead desperate lives. It is essential that strategies to tackle the worst behaviour both inside and outside of schools moves on to the front foot.

"Asbos may sometimes remove anti-social behaviour and violence from communities but they can't tackle its causes."

He added that, too often, schools have the sole responsibility for sorting out society's problems.

Liberal Democrat children's spokesman David Laws accused the government of coming up with a sticking plaster scheme.

He asked: "How effective will this scheme, which is only going to cover 1,000 children in 20 areas, be when we know that tens of thousands of children need both extra support and extra discipline?"

CCTV footage of anti-social behaviour

Asbos mean failure, says minister
27 Jul 07 |  UK Politics
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19 Nov 07 |  Education

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