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Understanding Troubled Families

Troubled families are families who both have problems and often cause problems - where children are truanting or excluded, where there is youth crime or anti-social behaviour and where parents are not working. They also tend to have other problems including domestic violence or drug or alcohol abuse. In addition to the obvious human costs of this, families also costs local services, and the taxpayer, a lot of time and money – which was adding up to a burden on the public purse of an estimated £9billion a year.

In December 2010, the Prime Minister set the ambitious goal of turning around the lives of 120,000 troubled families by 2015. To drive this forward, the Troubled Families Programme, led by Louise Casey CB and reporting to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, was launched in April 2012, backed by £448 million drawn from the budgets of six government departments.

All 152 upper tier local authorities in England signed up to the Troubled Families Programme and as a result they are not only helping families turn their lives around but also are changing the way they work with families and bringing down the amount of money public services need to spend reacting to their problems.

To be targeted for help under the Troubled Families Programme, families have to meet three of the four following criteria:

  • Are involved in youth crime or anti-social behaviour
  • Have children who are regularly truanting or not in school
  • Have an adult on out of work benefits
  • Cause high costs to the taxpayer

Local authorities receive a contribution from Government of up to £4,000 per family for getting children from troubled families back into school, reducing youth crime and anti-social behaviour and getting adults in the families on the path to work or into a job.

Two years on from the start of the Troubled Families Programme, the latest data shows:

  • 111,574 families have been identified for help;
  • 97,202 families are being worked with in the programme; and
  • 52,833 families have now been turned around.

The Troubled Families programme promotes a different approach to working with families in order to help them to change or turn their lives around:

  • By working with the whole family in a way which recognises they interact and influence each other rather than viewing them as individuals with problems;
  • Using a dedicated worker or dedicated team to get to the underlying problems, rather than individual services responding to the presenting problem of each family member;
  • By developing a relationship with the family, being persistent and building trust with them in order to challenge them to make the changes they need to, step by step, rather than containing and monitoring their problems;
  • And, where necessary, drawing in specialist services in a sequenced way at the right time for the family rather than services being available on the basis of meeting thresholds and availability.

Through working with families this way, problems such as domestic violence, dysfunctional relationships, mental and physical health problems can be addressed, families can start to function and the outward manifestations of those problems start to improve – children are back in school, there is reduced crime and anti-social behaviour, parents can start to think about their future, training and preparation for work.