IW Council: Leader addresses Party Conference

The Conservative leader of the local authority, Cllr David Pugh, has spoken at the Party's annual gathering in Birmingham about the work which is being done on the Isle of Wight to strengthen families and help get local residents into employment.

Cllr Pugh told the Conservative Party Conference, on Monday 8th October, that the Isle of Wight Council's particular focus is on getting the Island moving – creating job and training opportunities for local young people.

Speaking on the conference platform, Cllr Pugh said: "Despite the Island having a proud history of innovation and industry, too many of our young people and families are demotivated and lacking the skills and ambition to succeed. We have some great businesses and some highly talented people – but this currently doesn’t stretch widely enough.

"We can’t be a centre for enterprise if we can’t supply educated and ambitious workers, so this is where we are changing the way we support troubled families."

Cllr Pugh shared with the conference what the Isle of Wight Council is doing in response to the Government's Troubled Families initative, to support those parts of society who may be suffering from long-term unemployment, dependency on benefits and anti-social behaviour. The Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, Eric Pickles, followed Cllr Pugh's speech by talking about the work of the programme at a national level.

Cllr Pugh went on to say: "Under our programme, the first encounter with the family will entail the keyworker spending a good 10 hours or so simply ‘walking in the family’s shoes’ and understanding what it is like to be that family living in those circumstances. They will accompany the family as they get the kids up in the morning and get them to school, as they claim benefits, do their shopping. Too often, the involvement of professionals is based on the assessment of other professionals, rather than really understanding how a family exists.  By travelling the same path as the family we hope to get a real sense of the everyday challenges and work with the family to jointly identify a solution that is real and has a genuine chance of success.

"Our strategy reverses the traditional top down approach of social services and instead puts government in the shoes of the family, to understand their issues and help them onto the right track and into employment and training. And we devolve budgets and we trust the people with personal budgets because this is how you build personal responsibility. If people remain clients of the state they will never change for good."

Cllr Pugh concluded by saying: "As I said at the beginning – we don’t call them troubled families. We don’t want them to be troubled any more. We want to strengthen these families – with hope, aspiration and ambition – as we firmly believe that every young person on the Island has the opportunity to secure gainful employment and put their lives on the right track. We still have much distance to go, but with the initiatives I have spoken about – and the crucial support we have received from the Government – we are firmly on the journey to turn the Isle of Wight into a fully striving, hard working community in which no one is left behind."