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EIF report

Improving support for families facing multiple and complex problems


29 Oct 2021

The Supporting Families Programme is a key plank in the support available to families facing a range of complex problems. This report reflects on the expansion of the national programme, and how the investment made via the spending review can be deployed to have the greatest positive impact for more families.




The announcement in this month’s spending review of an extra £200 million to expand the Supporting Families Programme over the next three years is a welcome and much-needed injection of cash into an early help system under significant strain. 

The right support can help families to manage a range of challenges. It can improve family relationships and wellbeing. It can support children’s development, leading to improvements across a range of important child outcomes, including mental and physical health, and educational attainment. And it has the potential to reduce the risk of abuse and neglect, keep families together, and avoid the need for children’s social care services to become involved. 

This additional investment creates an important opportunity. As well as providing vital resource to increase the capacity of services, funding the programme for three years also offers an opportunity to build much-needed knowledge. It enables us to test the specific questions of how, and to what extent, targeted whole-family support can improve outcomes for children and families, reduce the risk of child maltreatment,  and in turn reduce demand and financial pressures within the children’s social care system. 

Our view is that this investment needs to do three things. 

  1. Build: It needs to increase the reach of the Supporting Families Programme so that more of the families with the most complex problems get the support they need. 
  2. Strengthen: It needs to strengthen the programme to make sure that this help matches their needs, is delivered by highly skilled and appropriately supported professionals, and is evidence-informed.
  3. Learn: It needs to ensure that we get to the end of the Spending Review period with a far better understanding of what works to reduce the risk of harm and wider poor outcomes for children.

This is the moment for a serious and sustained focus on both using the evidence that we do have, to make sure the programme is as strong as it can be, and on testing and understanding the impact that effective family support can achieve.

About the contributors

Donna Molloy

Donna is director of policy & practice at EIF.

Stephanie Waddell

Steph is assistant director for impact and knowledge mobilisation at EIF.