Hit squads to target families with problems

HIT squads to support the most deprived children in Westminster are one of 30 new initiatives announced as part of the council's One City agenda 2008

Susanna Wilkey

HIT squads to support the most deprived children in Westminster are one of 30 new initiatives announced as part of the council's One City agenda 2008.

Westminster Council leader Sir Simon Milton announced a package of measures to make the borough a better place in his annual speech on Wednesday.

Quintin Kynaston School in St John's Wood is to get a £2million one-off grant to match the money the academies and voluntary aided schools in the borough have received.

The money will be spent on developing children's learning through a number of different activities including sport, field trips and arts.

The council will also provide all schoolchildren in the borough with one free trip per term to a cultural event such as theatre, opera, galleries and museums by 2009.

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The new hit squads - or Family Assessment Teams - will intervene in families which are having a negative effect on their communities through alcohol or substance misuse, parenting problems, a bad housing situation and or crime and anti-social behaviour.

The three teams, the first of which will be up and running by 2009, will work intensively with these families to improve the quality of life of the whole community.

Sir Simon said: "Our aim is to intervene in such a way that families' natural resilience is strengthened and they are enabled to contribute positively to society rather than be a burden on it.

"This will not be an easy task for our staff or those families we work with. They will be faced by choices with consequences - reform their behaviour or face the possibility of sanctions."

The council also renewed its commitment to older people in Westminster with the introduction of parking concessions for carers and people visiting older residents.

It has also pledged to introduce a handyman to provide more help around the home - and a Seniors Online project to reduce the digital divide will see more than 280 older people trained to use the internet.

David Hogarth, from Westminster Older People's Action, said: "Parking concessions are a thing we have been campaigning for. But this will depend on what the concessions are. We will have to wait and see.

"The handyman service is good news for older residents and will help people continue to be independent in their homes, which is great.

"I also think it is an excellent idea for younger people to volunteer to help older people. Valuing older people is a great thing."

Stronger measures to combat the sale of alcohol to under-age people will be implemented and the sale of super-strength alcohol will be restricted.

Drunkards causing trouble on the street will also be asked where they bought their booze in a bid to target irresponsible licensees.

But overall Sir Simon praised Westminster as the "greatest city in the country".

"Through this programme, we will use public resources to secure a more ordered city, a more sustainable city, and one where opportunity and personal responsibility are encouraged and supported," he said.