Abstracts: December 21st, 2016

A Select Parliamentary Committee has challenged the effectiveness of the Troubled Families programme and criticised the Communities Department for its handling of the evaluation report.

The programme, launched in 2012, aimed to improve the way public services responded to need by focusing on the family as a unit and through overcoming the siloed organisational structure by adopting a team approach to providing support. Pilot projects, launched in 2010, as part of the Total Place initiative, produced outstanding results from early intervention and a team approach, with a team leader assigned to each family. The cost savings of the pilots were substantial.

Estimates, based on the Total Place initiative, showed that the annual cost of these families to the public sector was £9 billion, £8 billion of which was spent reacting to their problems instead of solving them.

Between 2012 and 2015 the Department funded local authorities for achieving outcomes with troubled families through a payment by results framework. While it did not prescribe how local authorities should work with troubled families, many adopted the perceived good practices of earlier family intervention projects, such as using key workers to join up public services. In June 2013, the Department committed a further £920 million to extend the programme to 2020.

A consortium, commissioned by the Department, produced am evaluation report in 2015. The evaluation aimed to assess the impact of the programme, its cost-effectiveness and how it was implemented. The evaluation was unable to find consistent evidence that it had any significant impact at this stage. It found evidence of good practice, such as enabling authorities to support more families and transforming the way they worked with these families. The evaluation could not directly attribute improvement in a range of outcomes related to employment, crime and health to the Troubled Families programme. The Department was unable to provide assurance at this stage that it would be able to evidence a statistically significant impact of the programme in the future.

The Committee recommended that the Department must develop a more meaningful longitudinal methodology for evaluating the impact and quality of the Troubled Families programme at both a national and local authority level. This should include an effective annual reporting system.

The Committee was also concerned about the delay in publishing the evaluation report and the lack of transparency. It recommended that the Department should ensure that its reports to Parliament and the public on the progress of the Troubled Families programme contain the evidence necessary to conclude meaningfully on the programme’s progress. Furthermore, to support effective parliamentary scrutiny, the Department must publish evaluations promptly and supply the Committee with timely information.

The Select Committee report is available at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmpubacc/711/71105.htm#_idTextAnchor008