English councils sign up to troubled families scheme

11 Jun 12
Every eligible local authority in England has agreed to take part in the government's plan to turn round the lives of 120,000 problem families by 2015, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced today

By Richard Johnstone | 11 June 2012

Every eligible local authority in England has agreed to take part in the government's plan to turn round the lives of 120,000 problem families by 2015, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced today.

Deprived Kids, Photo: Alamy

Under the deal, upper-tier councils can be paid up to £4,000 to help each troubled family in their area. Targets in the programme include getting children back to school, returning adults to work, and reducing instances of crime and antisocial behaviour.

The government also outlined how much of the money would be paid upfront to town halls, and how much would be based on results.

It is estimated that 120,000 families cost the public sector around £9bn annually, amounting to £75,000 per family. This is mainly spent on protecting the children and on police responses to crime and antisocial behaviour.

The three-year £448m programme intends to cut this spending by reducing duplication of funding and paying local authorities to join up services for these families.

Authorities will be paid an attachment fee when they begin working with families. This part of the funding, which was not confirmed in the initial offer to town halls in March, will be higher this year to help councils restructure local services and hire new staff.

For 2012/13, this payment will be £3,200 per family – 80% of the total £4,000 central funding – but will be reduced to 60% and 40% of the funds over the next two years.

Payment-by-result deals will make up the remainder of the funds, and will measure councils against four targets.

Meeting three criteria will lead to a total payment of £3,900. These include children having an attendance rate of 85% or better at school and fewer than three exclusions, a 60% reduction in antisocial behaviour across the family, and a 33% reduction in youth offending.

A final £100 will be paid if one of the family’s adults makes progress towards work, such as referral and attachment to the Work Programme.

However, councils and their partners are still expected to meet around £6,000 of the average £10,000 cost of successful family interventions.

Pickles said: ‘It is great news that every upper-tier authority has agreed to run this programme in their area. The fast and unanimous level of take-up shows that the government has got the confidence of local councils that together we can tackle a problem that councils have long grappled with.

‘Everyone will benefit from getting kids off the streets and into school, getting parents off benefits and into work, and cutting youth crime and antisocial behaviour. But it is also right that we will only pay councils in full if they deliver the results that we require.’

Local authorities are already working to indentify how many of the 120,000 families are in their area, based on indicative numbers provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government last December.

Local Government Association chair Sir Merrick Cockell welcomed the news that the government had decided to provide upfront funding.

‘Town halls have been clear about the importance of upfront funding and are therefore pleased the government has listened to their representations. The only way to find savings in the long term is to make the initial investment,’ he said.

‘Make no mistake though, councils have been working closely with local partners for quite some time to put into action intensive intervention work. This isn’t a new approach but the degree of funding can help take this to the next level.’ 

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