Lockdown saw 1,000 more families turn to Swindon Borough Council’s social services department for help than the year before.

But most are getting the support they need from the local authority.

Members of the children’s health, social care and education overview and scrutiny committee heard a report from the council’s interim director of social work, Angela Clarke.

She said: “The Early Help Hub received 5,156 referrals during 2020-21, up from 4,069 during 2019-20 – a 27 per cent increase.”

Ms Clarke said many of the referrals did not necessarily meet the threshold for social services’ action but where some early help to a family would make a difference.

She added: “Additional capacity has been allocated to the service to deal with the increased demand – 2,819 new families were engaged with during the year, up from 1,979 in 2019/20.”

A sign that the help was effective was that fewer than one in 10 of the new families were referred back to the early help services within six months.

Ms Clarke added: "This is positive performance and indicates the effectiveness of Early Help support provided."

She said work in schools was helping to identify families where help would be useful early to prevent issues becoming serious, adding: “The consultation line is proving a valuable contact method for schools with 16 per cent of referrals received during the year.

“ The impact of the Social Workers in Schools Team is also proving effective in earlier identification of families and Early Help engagement, which is contributing to prevention of escalation to social care threshold.”

The council’s Troubled Families programme has been renamed Supporting Families.

Ms Clarke said: "Troubled Families is the name the government gave it – we called it early help and early intervention. The government has renamed it Supporting Families to avoid negative connotations of the words troubled families.”

In Swindon the team has been working with 2,300 families and had made a claim to Whitehall for funding for success outcomes with 1,529 families in the year to March 2021 – which is 100 per cent of the target.

Ms Clarke said: “If we can see in a family’s outcome plan that we have made a difference; if there’s no need for a social worker, if there have been no more police callouts, if more of the children are in school and learning then we are able to make a claim.

“We work with more families than just those who need that formal outcome plan.”