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National evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme 2015 - 2020: service transformation – case study research: part 1

Presented to Parliament pursuant to Section (3) 6 of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016

Troubled families is one of the most ambitious family programmes ever introduced in this country and one of only two family programmes (the other being Family Nurse Partnership) with major funding from central government. The programme aims to achieve significant and sustained progress with around half a million of the most troubled families in England: families with multiple, persistent and often severe problems who have usually received a high level of input from other agencies, that did not result in positive and sustainable changes.

The programme aims to work with families in a holistic way which is not constrained by agency boundaries. The programme works with every family member who needs support; it deals with the full range of issues a family needs to address, and the level and type of support provided is based on what is most likely to work for a family - be it help with getting the children to school, finding a job, dealing with domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health issues or child neglect.

As the Troubled Families Programme has been designed to transcend agency boundaries, it has a potential transformative effect on both families and on service delivery. When successful, it can provide a model of how effective intervention puts the family at the centre with agencies working in partnership ‘around the family’; further it is supported through a funding model (i.e. payment by results) that requires regular scrutiny of whether the programme is making a difference.

In September 2014 the 51 best performing local authorities began delivery of the expanded Troubled Families Programme, which was rolled out nationally in April 2015 and replaced the first programme which had been in place since 2012. The expectation that the programme should evolve in response to emerging evidence of what works in supporting the most fragile families is reflected in the focus of the Troubled Families Programme on:

  • a greater focus on early years, when intervention has the potential of being most effective;
  • contributing to the early help agenda and to delivering early support when families face issues (e.g. domestic violence and abuse) often associated with children safeguarding concerns.

The Troubled Families Programme is also characterised by the following key issues:

  • Payment on delivery has been reduced in the Troubled Families Programme – from £4000 per family to £1800. However, it is anticipated that a focus on early intervention in the current programme will mean that many families will need lower levels of support and
  • New outcome measures will be more nuanced and granular in line with the requirement to develop local Troubled Families Outcomes Plans as part of the Troubled Families Programme’s approach of transparent accountability to inform future investment decisions.

This report presents findings from qualitative research among staff delivering the Troubled Families Programme, and families receiving services. It represents one element of the national evaluation of the programme, alongside a longitudinal quantitative family survey, quantitative surveys of delivery staff, and monitoring via data collected as part of the National Impact Study and Family Progress Data. The overarching evaluation aims to explore the level of service transformation driven by the programme as well as the impact of the family intervention approach on outcomes for families themselves.

Overall in-depth interviews were conducted with 48 families across eight of the nine local authorities participating in the qualitative staff survey and 79 troubled families staff (including keyworkers and practitioners) in all nine participating local authorities. This was originally intended as ten case study areas but one dropped out at an early stage. Eleven case studies will be covered in the next wave of fieldwork.

The first section gives findings on the experiences of the families in the Troubled Families Programme, and how the delivery of troubled families services relates to key principles of whole-family and integrated working. These findings draw on data from 48 in-depth interviews with families, alongside data from interviews with around 15 keyworkers.

The second section presents findings on how local authorities have responded to the Troubled Families Programme and the extent to which service transformation has taken place. These findings are based on over 60 in-depth interviews with practitioners and 48 interviews with families.