Council data reveals extent of troubled families' problems

Derren Hayes
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Families involved in the government's Troubled Families initiative have an average of nine social problems when they enter the programme, latest research shows.

Families taking part in the Troubled Families programme had received on average five police call outs in six months, research shows.
Families taking part in the Troubled Families programme had received on average five police call outs in six months, research shows.

Analysis of data submitted on 8,447 families being worked with by 133 English local authorities through the Troubled Families programme reveals the full extent of the problems the participants face upon entering the scheme.

It found that among families involved in the programme, 71 per cent had a health problem; 46 per cent a mental health concern; 35 per cent a child in care or on the at-risk register; 29 per cent had experienced domestic abuse; and 22 per cent had faced eviction in the previous six months. 

Data drawn from 1,048 families shows that on average they had nine problems related to employment, education, crime, housing, child protection, parenting or health on entry to the programme.

The findings highlight the challenge facing local authorities in turning the lives of programme participants around.

Under the Troubled Families programme, councils have targeted intensive support at the 160,000 families with the most entrenched problems related to truancy from school, antisocial behaviour and crime, and unemployment.

Councils receive government funding for showing families have “turned around” their lives for a prolonged period after the support ends.

Earlier this month, the government announced that 53,000 families had been successfully turned around two years into the programme, still well short of the March 2015 target for helping all families.

The analysis also shows that troubled families have double the number of children with special educational needs than the general population; 46 per cent have had a child assessed as having behavioural problems; 30 per cent of children had been excluded from school (16 per cent permanently); and a quarter of children had attended a pupil referral unit.

In total, there were 6,209 police call outs recorded in the previous six months to 1,316 families, an average of five call outs per family. One family had 90 police call outs in six months, and 21 families had more than 30 call outs – more than one a week.

Louise Casey, head of the Troubled Families programme, said the findings reinforced the need for local authorities to look at troubled families' problems as a whole rather than in isolation.
 
“This report paints a picture of families sinking under the weight of multiple problems and is an illustration of why we can’t treat the individual problems of individual members of a complex family in isolation,” she said. “It shows that these problems are interlinked and that they spiral out of control unless we do something about it.
 
“The best services understand that and provide practical solutions as well as challenge and support. However this data also shows how big the challenge is and why we need to take this approach to a wider group of families with a wider set of problems as soon as we can.”

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