Government set to miss troubled families target, says PAC

4 Apr 14
The government is not on track to meet its target to improve the lives of 120,000 troubled families before the next general election, the Public Accounts Committee has warned.

By Richard Johnstone | 4 April 2014

The government is not on track to meet its target to improve the lives of 120,000 troubled families before the next general election, the Public Accounts Committee has warned.

Examining progress on the pledge made by Prime Minister David Cameron to improve the lives of the most vulnerable, the MPs said schemes being run by both the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions, were working.

However, the rate of progress in getting people into work, returning children to school and cutting crime will not be enough to meet the May 2015 deadline, the Programmes to help families facing multiple challenges report stated.

This is in part due to what the committee called the ‘baffling’ decision to run two separate schemes. DCLG’s Troubled Families programme, with a budget of £448m, aims to ‘turn around’ 120,000 families by May 2015. DWP’s separate Families with Multiple Problems initiative, with a budget of £200m, intends to move 22% of those joining the programme into employment by March 2015.

Hodge said the committee welcomed the commitment shown by both departments to delivering the programmes, but they now needed to speed up.

‘We are concerned that the government is on course to miss its targets of turning around the lives of 120,000 troubled families and moving 22% of those referred to its employment programme into work by March 2015,’ she said.

‘At the time of our hearing, DCLG’s success rate was 13% behind its own expectations of performance. By October 2013 it had achieved lasting improvements in the lives of 22,000 families, leaving a further 98,000 to be “turned around” by May 2015.

‘More worryingly, DWP’s programme had achieved only 720 sustained employment outcomes by September 2013, just 4% of the programme’s expected performance.’

This lower-than-expected output was partly due to the introduction of two separate schemes in 2012, which had resulted in confusion and unnecessary duplication. The PAC said there was no clear rationale for this, given that both focused on similar problems amongst a similar sections of the population.

‘Another challenge has been the departments’ reliance on individual local authorities and private providers to deliver outcomes,’ Hodge added.

‘There have been big variations in performance, which put achieving the programmes’ objectives at risk.

‘The departments must ensure that performance in each local authority, and by each contractor, is scrutinised to properly manage the contracts giving appropriate support where appropriate, but also imposing sanctions where necessary.’

There was also a need for a clear plan for the delivery of the next phase of the Troubled Families programmeto help families at risk, Hodge said, which was brought forward in last month's budget to start this year.

Responding to the report, a government spokesman said DCLG’s Troubled Families programme was on track and having a big impact.

‘This report acknowledges that the programme was 3% ahead of the committee’s own expectations at the end of last year, with over 22,000 families turned around in just 18 months.

‘But there is always more to do and we expect performance to improve even more over the next year.’

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