By Colin Marrs

15 Jan 2015

DCLG’s Troubled Families Unit won the Policy Award

In December 2011, David Cameron promised to help 120,000 of the UK’s most troubled families, committing £448m over three years to a new 25-strong Troubled Families Unit in DCLG (pictured). Contributions to both the pot and the staff came from six other departments, and the scheme was up and running by April 2012, covering 152 upper-tier council areas.

Joe Tuke, director of troubled families at DCLG, says the first big challenge was overcoming the ‘silo’ approach to problem families. “Agencies had worked on particular problems for particular members of a family, but not in a connected way to get to the root of the problems to prevent the transmission of disadvantage from one generation to the next,” he says.

Local agencies were encouraged to appoint officers to create a single point of contact with each family. These “create one plan for a family and ensure they are in charge of gripping the agencies to solve the issues,” explains Tuke.

The unit estimated that interventions with these families cost public services around £9bn a year, and incentivised local agencies to work together to identify the potential benefits of rationalising contacts. It designed a cost savings calculator “to build up a sense of what the savings are if incidents are reduced”. And agencies that achieve measurable success are rewarded according to their achievements. So far, the lives of 69,000 families have been measurably improved.

Tuke says that there is a campaigning element to Troubled Families that might not suit other teams, as it owes a lot to programme chief Louise Casey. But he believes that there are clear lessons for others trying to support and encourage closer working between local agencies. “You have to have good information-sharing among partners, and particularly support from senior leadership to put resources into data,” he says. 

To see more of the 2014 Civil Service Awards, click here and to find out about other winners, click here

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