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The problem with troubled families programme

The Government’s troubled families initiative was criticised as based on a “spurious target” and showing little evidence of sustained change by the British Association of Social Workers.

Bridget Robb, Chief Executive of the Association, spoke out as it was revealed the scheme looks set to miss its three-year target of “turning around” 120,000 families facing multiple problems by 2015.

Under the programme, local authorities in England were supplied figures by the Government on the number of troubled families estimated to be in their area.

They were then asked to find these families and receive £4,000 for every family they successfully turn around. Success is defined as reduced antisocial behaviour, improved school attendance and enhanced employment prospects.

However, latest figures show only 39,500 families have so far been helped, suggesting the Government is likely to miss its target for next year.

Ms Robb said: “The 120,000 figure was plucked out of thin air and it put local authorities in the position of having to search for families to meet a spurious Government target.

“There is little evidence that this scheme is producing long-lasting change and yet millions of pounds of public money continues to be ploughed into it.

“It is also ironic that the austerity agenda being pursued by the Coalition Government is pushing families already facing difficulty to the brink and helping to create some of the social problems the initiative is attempting to fix.”

The troubled families programme was launched in 2012 with £448 million to provide intensive intervention focused on what ministers described as the county’s most problematic families estimated to cost the public purse £9 billion a year.

They are characterised as families involved in crime and anti-social behaviour where no adult is in work and children are truanting school.

Last year Louise Casey, the so-called troubled families tsar, said public services had “failed” to prevent these households passing on their dysfunction from one generation to another.