Council-led Troubled Families scheme extended for five more years

24 Jun 13
The government’s Troubled Families Programme is to be expanded to provide targeted help to an extra 400,000 households at risk of suffering from a number of social problems, the Treasury has announced.

By Richard Johnstone | 24 June 2013

The government’s Troubled Families Programme is to be expanded to provide targeted help to an extra 400,000 households at risk of suffering from a number of social problems, the Treasury has announced.

Deprived Kids, Photo: Alamy


Ahead of Wednesday’s Spending Review statement, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said that £200m would be provided to expand the scheme in partnership with councils from 2015/16.

This will be the first year of a five-year plan to improve the lives of families that are vulnerable to truancy, anti-social behaviour and crime, he said.

The initial scheme, which was launched by Prime Minister David Cameron in December 2011, saw all 152 upper-tier councils England paid as much as £4,000 for each troubled family they worked with. Payment was dependent on the success of interventions. Targets in the programme include getting children back to school, returning adults to work, and reducing instances of crime and antisocial behaviour by 2015.

A payment-by-results scheme will also be used in the expanded scheme. Councils will be eligible to receive up to £4,500 when they ‘get to grips’ with a family’s problems. This represents around 40% of the estimated average cost of a successful intervention and is the same proportion of costs provided from central government under the current scheme. The remainder will need to be provided by councils and other public sector bodies.

Funding for the expansion has been found from across five government departments as part of the Spending Review, Alexander said. These are: the Department for Communities and Local Government; the Department for Education; the Department for Work and Pensions; the Department of Health; and the Ministry of Justice.

Councils and other local agencies will need to submit a detailed service reform plan before they can access the cash, setting out how they will join up existing functions to produce savings and improve interventions.

Money will be earmarked for the scheme for five years to incentivise services such as the police, health and social services to work more closely together in order to reduce costs.

Alexander said this would allow the agencies to reorganise services to make efficiency savings, which would then be used to meet the 60% of the cost of interventions that needs to be funded locally.

Speaking on a visit to Wandsworth’s family recovery project, he added: ‘Reforming how services are delivered is going to be a central part of this week’s Spending Round. The Troubled Families Programme is a radical example of how, by spending a bit more in certain areas, we can save much more in others and by doing so create a stronger economy and a fairer society. Extending this intensive help to 400,000 more families will enable us to tackle problems such as truancy, anti-social behaviour and crime.

‘The government is committing £200m in funding in 2015/16 and for every £4,500 spent on a family, we can reduce the annual £15,000 cost of dealing with their problems by reducing the burden on the police, health and social services.’

Local government secretary Eric Pickles added the existing ‘groundbreaking’ programme being run by local authorities was on track to turn around the lives of 120,000 families by 2015.

‘It does so by taking a no-nonsense approach with families and a common sense approach to changing the way services are run. I am delighted that we will be able to continue the progress we have begun after 2015.’

The Local Government Association said that expansion of the scheme was ‘a vote of confidence’ in the work already being done by councils. But the group called for assurance from ministers that the announcement would not lead to cuts elsewhere in council funding.

LGA chair Sir Merrick Cockell said town halls had long recognised the value of early intervention programmes. However, cuts were already making it difficult to provide the key services that troubled families need, he warned.

‘We will be seeking clarification that this £200m is actually additional money and not money redirected from existing local authority budgets. We await the spending round announcement on Wednesday for more detail on this.

'It will be important that government’s contribution towards the cost of this work doesn’t have strings attached that restrict local freedom to tailor solutions to the specific needs of individual families.'


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