£1bn for troubled families “had no impact”


Troubled families scheme has made “no significant impact”

A government initiative to help the most disadvantaged families in England has made no “significant impact”, a report suggests.

The Troubled Families Programme launched in 2012 at a cost of £448m, with £900m added as it was extended.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggests it has had no measurable effect on school attendance, employment or behaviour.

But the government says lives have been “transformed” and the scheme works.

The programme – set up by former Prime Minister David Cameron following the 2011 riots in English cities – was intended to turn around the lives of 120,000 of the most “troubled” families.

It focuses on areas affected by high levels of unemployment, truancy and anti-social behaviour.

To qualify for the scheme, families must have at least two of the following problems:

The scheme stresses “targeted interventions”, with families getting dedicated workers who help with everyday tasks. They teach, for example, better household management and control of children”s behaviour. They also have to show “persistence”, visiting the families often.

The government pays councils up to £4,000 to work with each of the hardest-to-help families, on a payment-by-results basis.

This includes cutting children”s truancy and school exclusion rates and offending rates, as well as at least one adult getting into work.

In 2015 the scheme was extended for a further five years, to cover another 400,000 families at a potential estimated cost of £900m.

Perfect case study

The government has previously said the lives of tens of thousands of families have been “turned around”.

But the National Institute of Economic and Social Research found no consistent, measurable evidence that the scheme had improved the lives of families it aimed to help.

Using data from a quarter of the families taking part in the first stage, it found “a very small number of positive or negative results”.

“Across a wide range of outcomes, covering the key objectives of the Troubled Families Programme – employment, benefit receipt, school attendance, safeguarding and child welfare – we were unable to find consistent evidence that the programme had any significant or systematic impact,” the report stated.

Image caption
The scheme was launched following the 2011 riots in the UK

Jonathan Portes, one of the authors, called the programme a “perfect case study” of how the manipulation and misrepresentation of statistics by civil servants and politicians meant bad policy-making and money-wasting.

In August, BBC Two”s Newsnight reported a leaked version of the report, saying its publication had been “suppressed” – claims the government denied.

Communities Minister Lord Bourne has defended the programme, saying: “We believe this programme has transformed the lives of thousands of families. The councils and front-line staff who have put it into practice should be pleased with the work they have done.”

Lord Bourne said families helped should be “proud of having had the courage and commitment to change their lives for the better”, adding: “They valued the programme because for them it worked.

“So we will not turn our backs on these families. We will continue to help and support even more families who are just about managing, or not managing at all, as we build a Britain that works for everybody and not just the privileged few.”