Troubled Families Programme 'appalling'

Date: 
Wednesday, 11 November, 2015

Today’s Guardian quotes Jonathan Portes of the National Institute of Social and Economic Research in its coverage of our report on the Troubled Families Programme:

He told the paper:

‘It’s my very strong view that extending the programme on the basis that it’s a success when we simply don’t know that yet, is an appalling, completely irresponsible way to behave with taxpayers’ money.’

The Guardian also reveals new data from local authorites showing that more than 8,000 families were claimed to have been 'turned around' despite having had no contact with the Programme.

Karen Goodman of the British Association of Social Workers told Community Care that continued investment and expansion of troubled families was 'misguided', and that 'you’ve got to have anything evaluated'.

'Some of the basic principles to try and support those who are vulnerable is a very good and positive thing, so it’s not that we would be against that per se, [but] much more with how it was done and the context in which it has been done.'

A council worker writing anonymously on The Guardian website corrobarated our briefing's central finding:

'Crossley is right. I am responsible for collating information for our council's payment by results claims and the phase 1 rules did not require us to work with the families we were claiming. I found this troubling and had many conversations with counterparts in other councils, but went along with it. The phase 2 rules (The Financial Framework for the Expanded Troubled Families Programme dated March 2015) impose no 'worked with' requirement. Everything changed in August 2015 when we were told (without consultation or discussion) of new conditions. The claim I was preparing went from about 200 households to six.

'The wider question is whether this is a sensible use of public money: from where I stand it is. The teams actually delivering the service are able to be effective for a simple reason: focus. In other words they have small case loads and can stick with families for long enough to be effective, unlike (say) social workers who have five or ten times the case load. Not all interventions work but a lot do - as we would have expected because this way of working was developed by Action for Children 20 years ago and we have solid data on it. I sometimes spend time with our family intervention teams - we have some great people - as it's good to hear their stories. Dealing with the team in London is another matter, often clouded by their belief in the Data Fairy. The DF is incredibly useful but for a tiny detail: she doesn't exist.'

In another detailed response on The Guardian website a children's services manager writes that they had been left in a 'really awkward position' of having to implement the Troubled Families Programme because it was 'the only new money... available in drastically sinking services'. They added:

'we daren't project this criticism to the national stage because we'll be starved of any funding at all if the Government pull it. We are a bit like abused children made to eat gruel, complaint won't lead to better food, it'll lead to less gruel.'