Reaction to damning troubled families report

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The publication by the influential House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of a report into the Troubled Families Programme is 'a complete dressing down' for the Government, the Centre's Deputy Director has said.

His comments came in advance of a summit the Centre is holding next month to assess the purpose and impact of the controversial Troubled Families programme.

The main criticisms of the programme and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) are:

  • False claims were made about the success of the programme, including the claim that the 99 per cent of families had been 'turned around'.
  • The claim that the scheme had saved net £1.2 billion was not true, as it did not account for the costs of delivering the programme.
  • The payments by results aspect of the programme 'risks incentivising quantity over quality' according to the PAC chair, Meg Hillier.
  • There was a self-evidently perverse incentive for local authorities to claim success, based on the manipulation of national datasets.
  • The DCLG had been 'evasive' when explaining the reasons for the one year delay in publishing the commissioned evaluation of the programme.
  • The DCLG  'was unable to provide assurance... that it would be able to evidence a statistically significant impact of the programme in the future'.

The Centre's deputy Director, Will McMahon said:

This report is a complete dressing down for those, in Downing Street and Whitehall, who commissioned and led the development of the 'troubled families' programme. In Parliamentary terms, it is about as damning as it gets.

The whole programme was born of a shotgun marriage between the need for a government response to the 2011 riots, following the financial collapse and austerity, and the desire to point the finger at the usual suspects.

The only mystery is why the PAC did not call for the whole programme to be binned given that there is no evidence that it has had, or will have, any positive impact whatsoever.

Further reading

The Centre's November 2015 publication – The Troubled Families Programme: the perfect social policy? by Stephen Crossley – highlighted the spurious success claims made for the programme. Stephen Crossley will be one of the speakers at our 'troubled families' summit on 20 January 2017.