Troubled Families programme may ditch payment-by-results scheme

Changes to be judged on how funding can promote sustainability of services and reduce worklessness

By Richard Johnstone

05 Apr 2017

Details have been revealed of the review of the payment-by-results scheme in the government’s controversial Troubled Families scheme, with Whitehall set to consider alternative payment proposals that prioritise tackling unemployment.

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Under the original scheme, councils were paid up to £4,000 for identifying and turning round the lives of 120,000 families with entrenched social problems including unemployment, domestic abuse and truancy.

An evaluation carried out for the Department for Communities and Local Government by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research of the initial phase of the scheme, which ran from 2012 to 2015, was "unable to find consistent evidence that the programme had any significant or systematic impact".

A £200m extension to the scheme was announced by then prime minister David Cameron in 2013 in order to provide help for up to 400,000 disadvantaged families by 2020. Families qualify for assistance under the new scheme if they have at least two of six problems: worklessness and financial exclusion; truancy and poor school attendance; crime and anti-social behaviour; domestic abuse; children who need help; and mental and physical health issues

Today’s first annual report on the expanded scheme confirmed that a review of the payments model was now under way. Existing rules see local authorities receive up-front funding of £1,000 per family and a results-based payment of £800 per family.

However, the progress report said payment changes are being considered in order to make services more sustainable and reflect a switch towards tackling worklessness.

“Payment by results has provided a much-needed focus on real, tangible changes and outcomes being made in families rather than an offer of help and sympathy with little long lasting impact,” the report stated. “However, we need to be certain that it will provide the sharp focus we need on parental worklessness. We also need to be certain it will deliver long-term service reform after the programme ends in 2020. Over the coming months we will seek the views of local authorities delivering the Troubled Families programme and the voluntary and community organisations whose role is also critical for future success on what changes should be made.”

Possible new models will be assessed against the principles of sustainability and impact on workless families. They will also be judged on whether they continue to support local delivery by councils as well as incentivising broader public sector collaboration. Any new funding deal could be linked to requirements to drive service reform, including investing in areas like data systems and workforce development.

The report stated that, under the new scheme, 185,000 families with multiple problems are receiving dedicated support.

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