Troubled Families programme 'has little impact'

Neil Puffett
Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The government's flagship Troubled Families initiative has had little impact in boosting job prospects or improving outcomes for children, a study commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government has found.

An evaluation report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research found that across a wide range of outcomes such as employment, benefit receipt, school attendance, safeguarding and child welfare, it was "unable to find consistent evidence that the programme had any significant or systematic impact".

Under the Troubled Families programme, local authorities began work in April 2012 with 120,000 families across England identified as experiencing multiple, inter-related challenges with the aim of turning their lives around by May 2015 at a cost of £448m.

Since then a further £900m has been committed to the initiative so it can work with an additional 400,000 troubled families by 2020.

The government pays councils up to £4,000 to work with each family, with the amount of cash they receive being based on results.

The evaluation report found that there were periods of positive outcomes and periods of negative outcomes for families involved with the scheme in relation to specific measures.

Because of the way results are recorded, this meant that, over a sufficient period of time, full payment could be received, even if the programme had no overall impact in changing behaviour.

However, communities minister Lord Bourne said the programme has transformed the lives of thousands of families.

"We know that more than 116,000 of the families who participated in the first phase of the programme have seen significant improvements in their lives, with children back in school for a year, reduced youth crime and antisocial behaviour, and adults holding down a job," he said.

"We also know the programme transformed the way services responded to the most complex families. Different agencies - the police, NHS, social services, employment advisers - worked together to help the family instead of pushing them from pillar to post.

"And because these troubled families put some of the highest costs on the public purse - often tens of thousands of pounds per year - we are confident that the programme will save money for the taxpayer too.

"The programme has been hugely popular with the councils who run it in local areas - all 150 of them signing up for the second phase. And we know that families on the programme really value the programme's approach.

The report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research follows a study by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, published last November, which claimed that government assertions that the programme has a 99 per cent success rate are "unbelievable".

That report said the Troubled Families initiative is working with the wrong families in the wrong way and is likely to be wasting millions of pounds.

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