Family intervention projects: a classic case of policy-based evidence

Professor David Gregg
Friday, 25 June 2010

There is little evidence to support the intensive Family Intervention Projects according to Professor David Gregg's briefing paper,  Family intervention projects: a classic case of policy-based evidence  which is based on a comprehensive re-analysis of government funded evaluations on the effectiveness of the Family Intervention Project (FIP) strategy.

The FIPs became a flagship policy in New Labour's anti-social behaviour strategy. Professor Gregg, discusses the approach of the New Labour government to the academic evaluations of the FIPs and finds that:

  • Successive evaluation teams offered large caveats to claims of project success that were ignored by government in media statements and other public policy announcements, and the claimed success rates for FIPs is based only on a core sample of the families that were the most compliant.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the evidence suggests that rather than constituting a distinct minority distinguishable from the 'law abiding majority' FIP families tended to conform to the norms and values of the communities in which they lived but that:
  • The subjects of anti-social behaviour interventions often have mental health problems, learning disabilities and neurological disorders and whether ASB interventions are appropriate for this group should be seriously questioned.

Professor Gregg, said,

`I was struck again and again during my analysis of the research by how weak is the evidence base for the claimed success of the Family Intervention Project (FIP) strategy. A balanced review of the research into the effectiveness of the Family Intervention Projects shows that the FIPs have not delivered the successes claimed for them in the last decade. By targeting the wrong people for the wrong reasons while failing to tackle the real underlying causes in those targeted or delivering support in key areas like mental health the FIP remains at root enforcement-led and sanctions-oriented, where someone must be blamed and punished for bad behaviour. This ethos justifies forcing very vulnerable families with mental health problems into projects under threat of eviction, loss of benefits and removal of children into care.'

Richard Garside, director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said:

`This briefing raises serious questions about the efficacy of Family Intervention Projects. It was not unusual for the last administration to play fast and loose with the evidence base and it is to be hoped that a thorough review will be held of the FIP strategy and more evidence-led conclusions drawn.'