Headlines: March 29th, 2012

The troubled families programme breaks the mould of traditional service delivery and opens the way for local development of radically different business models. It is the testbed for public service re-design.

Ten councils with the largest number of troubled families have agreed to sign up to the programme which aims to turn around the lives of 120,000 problem households by 2015. These families almost always have other often long-standing problems which can lead to their children repeating the cycle of disadvantage. One estimate shows that in over a third of troubled families, there are child protection problems. Another estimate suggests that over half of all children who are permanently excluded from school in England come from these families, as do one-in-five young offenders.

It is estimated that cost to the taxpayer from truancy, crime and the worklessness is £75,000 per year, which nationally adds up to £9 billion.

The £448 million three-year budget has been provided by taking money from across Whitehall to help councils get to grips with whole families and deal with their problems at root cause through proven techniques, rather than a multitude of agencies working with single people within a family.

The programme includes a payment by results scheme that will deliver up to £4,000 per family to councils which get children back into school, reduce youth crime and anti-social behaviour, put adults on a path back to work and bring down the £9 billion annual costs caused by dealing with them.

The origins of the programme go back many years and include total place, later re-badged as community budgets and the social justice strategy. The radically different features of the programme include moving away from a silo approach to join up all services and skill sets; tackling the root cause of problems, not simply dealing with their effects; investing up front for savings later; and providing a cash incentive to councils when targets are achieved.

The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel, set up last year estimates that there are 500,000 forgotten families with poor parenting, an inability to prevent reoffending, too much emphasis on materialism, and a lack of confidence in the police. Should these families become the focus of a further policy change the search will be on to recruit top quality Troubled Families co-ordinators to run programmes locally.