Review finds no benefit from Cameron’s flagship Troubled Families scheme

18 Oct 16

An evaluation of the government’s Troubled Families programme has found the flagship scheme has failed to have any significant impact on key areas where it was meant to help, such as employment and school attendance.

The analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research found there was no consistent evidence that the initiative, which ministers have since extended, had any significant or systematic impact.

The scheme run by the Department for Communities & Local Government was intended to provide intensive support to families with multiple needs, and was launched by then prime minister David Cameron in April 2012 with a budget of £448m. All 152 upper-tier councils in England were paid as much as £4,000 for each troubled family they worked with, with payments also made to councils based on the success of interventions across factors including employment, benefit receipt, school attendance, safeguarding and child welfare.

The NIESR report found the vast majority of impact estimates across these areas were statistically insignificant, with a very small number of positive or negative results. These results are consistent with those found by the separate and independent impact analysis using survey data which also found no significant or systemic impact across employment, job seeking, school attendance, or anti-social behaviour.

Targets in the programme included getting children back to school, returning adults to work, and reducing instances of crime and antisocial behaviour by 2015. Ministers claimed that the lives of 116,654 of the most troubled families have been turned around. An extension to the programme to help a further 500,000 families was announced in 2014.

Using data from 56 local authorities, the review covered around a quarter of the 20,000 families that participated in the programme. It highlighted that the information supplied was of variable quality, which required assumptions about the impact on certain groups.

The review stated it was therefore possible that in some cases these assumptions did not reflect the true circumstances of particular families. Consequently, there is no available evidence to suggest that such systematic differences exist, and the possibility of significant bias therefore appears unlikely.

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