The Troubled Families Programme: the perfect social policy?

Stephen Crossley
Wednesday, 11 November 2015

No social policy can expect to achieve a 100 per cent success rate. Yet according to government, the Troubled Families Programme has achieved almost exactly that.

The programme has apparently turned around the lives of some of the most disadvantaged and excluded families across England, in a remarkably short period of time.

All of this has occurred against a backdrop of cuts to local services and welfare reforms which have hit not just families, but the very organisations and councils that deliver services to them.

As Stephen Crossley points out in this new briefing, there is little evidence to support the Troubled Families Programme success claims.

The Troubled Families Programme: the perfect social policy? traces the history of the Programme and highlights the problematic use of data to support success claims. Quite simply, the reported successes of the Troubled Families Programme are too good to be true and require closer public and political scrutiny than they have received to date.

Will McMahon, Deputy Director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies said,

‘The Troubled Families programme is itself deeply troubling. Its claims to success – of lives turned around and savings made – are not credible.

'There is a crying need for parliament to subject this programme to proper scrutiny. The public administration committee and public accounts committee need to investigate the TFP and the government's misleading claims about its success as a matter of urgency.’

Speaking to The Guardian, Jonathan Portes of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said:

'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.'

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.'

Selected media coverage

  • Community Care 'Successes of the Troubled Families programme ‘too good to be true’ says report'
  • The Guardian 'Is the success of the government’s troubled families scheme too good to be true?'
  • Children & Young People Now 'Troubled Families programme "wastes millions of pounds"'
  • Police Oracle 'Multi-agency programme "probably a waste of money", claims researcher' (free registration required)