IPPR calls for ‘Troubled Lives’ programme to tackle social problems

21 Sep 15

The government’s flagship Troubled Families scheme should be expanded to integrate public services for people facing social problems including homelessness, criminality and substance misuse, a think-tank has recommended.

The Institute for Public Policy and Research said a “Troubled Lives” programme could help to both better target public spending where it is needed and mitigate the impact of cuts to local authority budgets.

Today’s report found an estimated £4.3bn is spent on a significant minority of adults experiencing several dimensions of social exclusion in England every year, including homelessness, offending and substance misuse.

The analysis highlighted the overlap between the use of substance misuse services, homelessness support and the criminal justice system, with approximately a quarter of a million people using two or more of these.

Better integration could therefore improve the lives of some of the most excluded people in society and get better value for spending amid funding pressures.

IPPR called for the creation of £100m annual Troubled Lives fund that would lead a four-year drive to improve coordination.

The existing Troubled Families programme was pioneering integrated support and reducing demand for crisis-led services and, despite some weaknesses, should be built upon, IPPR associate director Clare McNeil said.

“Too much public spending on individuals experiencing problems such as addiction, homelessness, offending and poor mental health comes too late and doesn’t help people deal with the multiple problems they often face.

“At the next Spending Review, government must prioritise improving value for money for spending on this group. Our recommendations build on the example of the Troubled Families programme and introduce new long term reforms for local services to help the most excluded.”

Integration should take place at upper-tier local authority level, with a key worker appointed for each individual and a national, collective outcome framework agreed for funding.

Two-thirds of the annual £100m spending should be devolved to local areas to introduce intensive one-to-one support for troubled individuals and support local service integration and transformation. This should be matched by locally pooled budgets for services, while the remainder of the central cash should be used to pay authorities based on results.

Councils would be required to show reduced demand for expensive crisis care services after at least one year, while authorities could also bid for pots of relevant central funding – such as employment support, mental health and community safety funding – to be devolved.

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