Problem families may be sent to special 'sin bins'

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The Independent Online

Fifty "sin bins" where families are helped to tackle their antisocial behaviour are to be created across the country as part of a drive to "restore the liberty of the law-abiding citizen".

Unveiling his long-awaited "respect action plan", Tony Blair set out proposals to combat truancy and unruly neighbours, expand help for the parents of disruptive children and tackle violence against public sector workers.

The Prime Minister bemoaned the breakdown of "respect in communities" as he announced the Government's plans, which combine tough measures - including higher spot fines for hooliganism and more parenting orders - with better facilities for youngsters in the most deprived areas. Most controversial will be the creation of "family support schemes", dubbed "sin bins", where problem families could receive help on parenting, money problems and handling money.

The Home Office said a similar project in Dundee had been an overwhelming success. Hazel Blears, the departmental minister, said: "I see them as a last-chance opportunity for people to change their lives, get back on track and, most importantly, prevent the next generation of people ruining their lives and getting dragged into crime and antisocial behaviour."

Residents who make their neighbours' lives a misery could, as a last resort, be evicted for up to three months even if they are owner-occupiers. People who refuse to co-operate could lose their entitlement to housing benefit or be fined. The Government also announced yesterday that fixed penalty notices for serious disorder will be raised from £80 to £100. Ministers are considering introducing on-the-spot fines for people who cause trouble in hospital accident and emergency departments.

Tougher sentences will also be brought in for assaults on public sector workers such as teachers and bus drivers, while the provision of sports and arts activities for young people will be expanded in the most deprived areas.

David Cameron, the Conservative leader, said: "Tony Blair used to say he would be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. Sadly and frankly, he has not been either. I think what we have seen today is a series of gimmicks."