SOCIAL workers are moving into the heart of York communities to help ensure struggling families are identified and helped as quickly as possible.

Teams of social workers and family support workers are being based at three schools - Derwent, York High and Canon Lee - to help families in the Tang Hall, Acomb and Clifton areas of the city.

They will lead City of York Council’s early intervention approach, to tackle a range of social problems before they reach crisis levels, said education cabinet member Janet Looker.

She said work would start with young mothers and new-born babies, ranging from the importance of changing their nappies promptly to cuddling them regularly.

“The first two years of a child’s life are critical,” she said. “It is often too late by the time the children are starting school.”

She said a key aim would be to try to reduce the number of children that need to be taken into care.

The number of children in council care rose from 199 to 255 between 2008/9 and 2011/12.

Coun Looker said the programme would not specifically target the families of children at those schools, saying there just happened to be accommodation available there and they were in the right location.

“The aim is to get the social workers out of head office and into the heart of the community,” she said.

Meanwhile, Coun Looker has warned that as the Government squeezed local government funding, the council must look at increasingly imaginative ways of supporting schools and ensuring they get the necessary help.

Coun Looker said this might involve increased cooperation between schools, but she could not go into further detail. She said she had immense pride in the city’s schools and the way they continued to adapt to the shifting requirements of the Ofsted inspection system.

“Our schools are rising to the challenge of such a huge number of changes that have taken place in the past year and on a positive note we are hoping for good things from a recent Ofsted that took place at Tang Hall Primary which is due out soon.”

Coun Looker spoke of the “painful decision” to close Burnholme Community College, but said staff and students were now “sorting themselves out” and looking where they were going to go next.