A PIONEERING new approach to helping young people at risk of going into care or custody is to be launched in Cheshire.

£250,000 of funding has been confirmed by the Department for Education which will enable a Multisystemic Therapy Service to be established in Cheshire West and Cheshire East.

The intensive approach pioneered in the USA aims to break the cycle of crime and anti-social behaviour by keeping young people at home, in school and out of trouble.

Twenty Multisystemic Therapy Services are being funded by the DfE but Cheshire’s successful bid was unique as it was made by a partnership led by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

The partnership consists of Cheshire West and Chester Council, NHS Western Cheshire PCT, Cheshire East Council, Central and Eastern Cheshire PCT, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Trust, Cheshire Youth Offending Service and the Clinical Commissioning Groups across the Cheshire area.

The service will launch in April 2012 focusing on 11 to 17-year-olds who have serious problems with aggressive or criminal behaviour, drug or alcohol problems, truancy and running away from home, as well as other high risk behaviours like self harm.

Trained therapists will work intensively with the young person, his or her carers, family, teachers, even neighbours to change the behaviour of the young person and improve the skills of the caregivers.

The therapists are available to the families they are helping 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, handling a small number of cases but providing intensive support.

Treating young people in this way, not only improves their chances of turning their lives around, but is far more cost effective than taking them into care or risking them ending up in custody.

Numerous studies have proven that the Multisystemic Therapy model achieves excellent long-term results reducing arrest rates by up to 70 per cent and reducing out-of-home placements by up to 64 per cent.

Councillor Mark Stocks, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Executive Member for Education and Children, said: “We are delighted to have secured the funding for this important service. As a result we will be able to recruit psychologists and practitioners who will be dedicated to giving troubled young people and their support networks the help, advice and care that they need.”

Cheshire East Council’s Cabinet Support Member for Children and Families Councillor Rhoda Bailey added: “The number of young people who will benefit from this service will be relatively small. The greater significance of Multisystemic Therapy is the change of approach from providing emergency intervention when people hit crisis point to community-based intervention and prevention. It will provide a useful model for agencies in Cheshire who will be able to learn from the approach and incorporate it into the way they work.”