Leaked report casts doubt on Troubled Families programme

Official evaluation seen by Newsnight suggests much-heralded programme has had a limited impact on employment, criminality and truancy

By Josh May

09 Aug 2016

The government has been accused of sitting on a report which found its flagship initiative to help troubled families had no “measurable impact” on the targets of the programme. 

The scheme, hailed by David Cameron as a “real success” last July, was launched after the London riots in 2011. Troubled families are defined as those with long-standing problems, inlcuding long-term unemployment, exclusion from school, and exposure to domestic violence.

But BBC Newsnight has seen an official evaluation which casts doubt on whether the programme has had any influence on employment, criminality and truancy.

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Based on data from 56 local authorities, the analysis by consultancy firm Ecorys said: “The lack of obvious effect from the programme across a range of outcomes indicates that the programme did not have a measurable impact on families within the time-frame over which it was possible to observe its effects.”

Ecorys found there was no “discernible impact” on the proportion of those in ‘troubled families’ claiming out-of-work benefits or the rates of adult offending, “no obvious impact” on employment, “no detectable impact” on child offending, and no clear conclusions on truancy.

An official told Newsnight that publication of the report was being held back because of its findings, an accusation denied by a departmental spokesperson, who said: "There were several strands to the evaluation work commissioned by the last government and there is not yet a final report."

In June last year Mr Cameron described the scheme as a “real government success”.

“Almost all of the 117,000 families which the programme started working with have now been turned around – in terms of either school attendance or getting a job or both,” he said.

The former prime minister added that he wanted it to reach 400,000 more families by the end of the decade.

Families in the programme receive a designated social worker to coordinate how public services can help them with entrenched problems.

Local authorities receive £3,200 for every family identified and a further £800 if they are deemed “turned around”, which requires some improvement on truancy or criminality.  

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