Headlines: July 19th, 2012

The troubled families report, which sets out the aim to turn around the lives of 120,000 troubled families by 2015 and the challenges it presents, marks the Coalition Government’s acceptance of a new model of service delivery based on a single community budget.

The report details stark real-life accounts from families, with experiences often passed from generation to generation, such as domestic and sexual abuse, teenage pregnancies, poor parenting, social care interventions, police call outs and educational failure.

The report author, Louise Casey, concludes that a whole-family approach is often best for dealing with multiple and inter-linked problems; rather than approaches that deal with single problems or single individuals within a household. She heads a cross-departmental programme with a Community Budget drawn from a range of departments across Whitehall. The programme is carried out in partnership with all 152 larger local councils who are working with families in their area.

This new model of service delivery, focusing on the whole issue, bringing together professionals with different skill sets with funding from a single pot budget, was piloted in 2009 in the Total Place programme. The pilots demonstrated that better outcomes could be achieved at a lower cost. The Total Place programme was replaced by the Community Budget initiative, but in a much lower key.

A major obstacle to taking the initiative forward was a lack of enthusiasm of ministers to allow their budgets to be put in a local pot where spending decisions were taken locally. Earlier this year Care Services Minister Paul Burstow told the Parliamentary Health Committee that “he sees Care Trusts, such as Torbay, as “an experiment that […] did not really get out of the lab”. He maintained this position despite clear evidence that joint commissioning with a single budget pot had proved successful in Torbay.

In addition to the troubled families programme there are a further 14 community budget programmes at both micro neighbourhood level and macro whole area level. Four pilots at the macro level are exploring ‘ways to create local growth and reduce dependency on the state. Ten ‘neighbourhood level’ areas are developing smaller scale Community Budgets that will give residents a micro-local level say over the services they want and use.

Louise Casey described the next part of the troubled families challenge as understanding more about how the success with families is achieved. For the future she wants to widen this approach to a far larger group of families across the country. The ultimate aim is to reshape, redesign and refocus services. The troubled families programme is set to be the flagship for community budgets and a new model of service delivery.