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Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families


1. This Government is committed to creating a country that works for everyone, in which everyone can go as far as their talents and hard work will take them. However we know that, despite record employment, for some families, worklessness, not employment, is the norm. Our analysis has revealed how this worklessness and the complex problems associated with it hold people back and prevent them from reaching their potential.

2. We cannot afford not to act: the issues faced by children in workless families – of which there are 1.8 million1 across the UK – combine to impact upon their development and education, limiting their future employment prospects, and reducing their opportunities to succeed throughout their lives.
Our analysis and the case for change

3. Our new analysis shows just how stark the difference is between outcomes for children in workless families and those in lower-income working families. Children growing up in workless families are almost twice as likely as children in working families to fail at all stages of their education (DWP, 2017).

4. This analysis reveals that parents’ ability to work is frustrated by complex issues that prevent them from fulfilling their potential and leave children without the stability they need. Our work has shown that workless families are considerably more likely to experience problems with their relationships, have poor mental health, and be in problem debt (DWP, 2017).

Next steps for action

5. This Government wants the parents of these children to have the chance to earn a living, and to overcome the issues that hold them back. We will:

  • Set out the next phase of the Government’s Troubled Families Programme so that it has an even greater emphasis on helping people back into work and tackling the disadvantages associated with worklessness. We will do this by building on the strengths of the current programme – its focus on supporting the whole family by understanding how issues interconnect; and its role in driving local service reform.
  • Reduce parental conflict through the launch of an innovative new programme to support evidence-based interventions delivered by specialist organisations at a local level – saving money and transforming lives by giving parents, whether together or separated, the right help before things get worse.
  • Set new expectations for Jobcentre Plus to identify people with complex needs at the right time, to strengthen partnership working with local authorities, wider public services, and the voluntary sector, to share information more effectively between partners and work with local strategic boards to more efficiently address claimants’ needs.
  • Tackle dependency by implementing recommendations made by Dame Carol Black’s review of employment and drug and alcohol dependency. We will bring forward a trial of the Individual and Placement Support approach to help those dependent on drugs and alcohol move into work and expand eligibility for Access to Work grant funding to provide those on a treatment programme with the support they need to enter or continue work.

Tracking progress

6. The policies we are bringing forward in this document will build on the work the Government is already doing to help families overcome the disadvantages they face and stabilise their lives. They also set a clear direction for how public and local services will work together in the future to improve the support provided to families with complex needs.

7. We are publishing national indicators in nine areas – two statutory and seven non-statutory – to track progress in tackling the disadvantages that affect families’ and children’s lives. These indicators will allow us to track national progress over time, and have been carefully developed and rigorously tested with external academics.

8. By publishing our latest analysis and the compelling evidence around multiple disadvantage, we will help local authorities and others in their work to improve children’s outcomes. As part of this evidence-sharing approach, we are making local level data available through the local government data tool, LG Inform.

9. We are also bringing forward a new evidence resource on multiple disadvantage in families and its impact on children – and will develop this jointly with others so that this important analysis can be used by a range of professionals to help them commission and deliver effective interventions to improve outcomes for disadvantaged families.


10. Government will take action to invest directly in specific programmes and transform the way we deliver services. Disadvantage is complex and so tackling it requires policies across education, health and employment. We recognise that many of these are devolved matters and that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be bringing forward policies to tackle these issues in their own administrations as they consider appropriate.