A pioneering new approach to help young people at risk of going into care or custody has been launched in Cheshire.
Funding of £200,000 from the Department for Education has enabled a multi-systemic therapy (MST) service to be established in Cheshire East and Cheshire West.
Multi-systemic therapy is so called because it addresses the different ‘systems’ or social networks in an adolescent's life.
Therapists work intensively not only with the young person but also all those who influence the young person and his behaviour – such as his or her carers, family, teachers and even neighbours.
This intensive and cost-effective approach, pioneered in the US, aims to break the cycle of crime and anti-social behaviour by keeping young people at home, in school and out of trouble.
Numerous studies have shown that MST 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.
Cheshire’s successful bid for funding was a unique partnership comprising Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, NHS Western Cheshire PCT, Central and Eastern Cheshire PCT, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Trust, Cheshire Youth Offending Service and the clinical commissioning groups across Cheshire.
The new service will focus on young people, aged 11 to 17, who are at risk of entering custody or care.
The service is being delivered by Middlewich-based charity Visyon. The team of six staff includes an MST supervisor and four MST therapists.
Therapists aim to change the behaviour of the young person and support families to develop the skills and confidence that will enable continued success in increasing positive behaviours.
Councillor Hilda Gaddum, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of children and family services, said: “Multi-systemic therapy places the emphasis on early intervention, helping young people to address and change their behaviour before they reach the stage of entering care or custody.
“In other areas across Britain we have seen families completing MST and no longer needing support from additional services. This is very exciting for everyone involved in helping these families.
“Numerous studies have shown this approach achieves impressive long-term results. It has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of troubled young people and their families in Cheshire.”
MST Champions have been identified in each of the organisations within the partnership. These champions will be the point of contact for referrals to the service.
The MST therapists will be available to families they are helping 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They will handle a small number of cases but provide intensive support.
Treating young people in this way not only improves their chances of turning their lives around but also is far more cost effective than taking them into care or risking them ending up in custody.