Troubled families policy cuts number of children going into care by a third

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A Government programme supporting families with complex problems has reduced the number of children going into care, according to an evaluation.

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The ‘National Evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme 2015 to 2020’ found the scheme has improved several outcomes for families, including a reduction in juvenile convictions and in the number of adults claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The troubled families programme works with whole families with complex and inter-connected problems such as anti-social behaviour, mental health problems or domestic violence to help overcome issues including ‘worklessness’, uncontrolled debt and truancy.

When compared to a control group, the programme of targeted intervention was found to have:

  • reduced the proportion of children on the programme going into care by 32 per cent at 19-24 months after joining the programme
  • reduced the proportion of adults on the programme going to prison by 25 per cent
  • reduced juvenile convictions by 15 per cent
  • supported more people on the programme back in work, with 10 per cent fewer people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance

Communities secretary James Brokenshire MP said, ‘Fresh thinking is needed now more than ever to meet the challenges we face – like knife crime and gang culture. This programme is proving it has a valuable role to play as we look forwards to the upcoming Spending Review.

‘It’s inspiring to see agencies working better together to help people succeed but the real story is the thousands of people who’ve taken control of their own lives. People are being helped to help themselves.’

Tom McBride, director of evidence at the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF), commended the Government for investing in an evaluation of the programme’s 2015-2020 iteration.

‘Most Government initiatives are not well evaluated – which doesn’t mean they don’t work, but it does mean we don’t know. Any moves by Government departments to include rigorous evaluation within their plans are to be warmly welcomed: as a country, we can’t afford to be providing services and support which don’t stand a good chance of making a difference.’

The evaluation findings will be welcome news to the Government after the original troubled families programme, launched after the 2011 riots to tackle anti-social behaviour in 120,000 families, was found to have had no ‘significant or systematic impact’ in its first four years by an independent review in 2016.

Despite this, the Government announced it would expand the programme to reach 400,000 families by 2020, continuing to use its ‘payment by results’ approach in most areas, according to which councils are only paid if they can prove they have carried out successful intervention in families.

Chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) children and young people board, Anntoinette Bramble, added, ‘Councils have played a pivotal role in making the Troubled Families Programme a success for some of the most vulnerable families, and we urge the Government to continue funding this vital service.

‘This is one of the few remaining sources of early intervention funding for councils, with the Government’s Early Intervention Grant cut by £600 million since 2013.
‘However, if councils are to effectively support families and intervene early, then the Government must use the Spending Review to address the wider financial pressures on services that support children and families. Children’s services alone face a £3.1billion funding gap by 2025.'

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