Department for Communities and Local Government
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Study shows scale of troubled families' problems

New report shows the range of troubled families' problems. 

A new report has shown that troubled families being helped to turn their lives around have an average of 9 different serious problems.

The independently produced data published on Tuesday 22 July 2014 showed that, as well as having significant problems with truancy, youth crime, anti-social behaviour and worklessness; of the families being worked with in the government’s Troubled Families programme:

  • 71% also have a health problem
  • 46% have a mental health concern
  • 29% are experiencing domestic violence or abuse
  • 22% have been at risk of eviction in the previous 6 months
  • 35% had a child of concern to social services or who has been taken into care
  • 40% have 3 or more children, compared to 16% nationally
  • police callouts in the previous 6 months have averaged 5 per family

Head of the government’s Troubled Families programme Louise Casey CB said the findings showed the need for a new approach from services to helping the most troubled families turn their lives around that “gets in through the front door and really understands what’s going on across the whole family”.

She said:

This report paints a picture of families sinking under the weight of multiple problems and is an illustration of why we can’t treat the individual problems of individual members of a complex family in isolation.

It shows that these problems are interlinked and that they spiral out of control unless we do something about it.

The best services understand that and provide practical solutions as well as challenge and support. However this data also shows how big the challenge is and why we need to take this approach to a wider group of families with a wider set of problems as soon as we can.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles added:

This report is an eye-opener into the lives that troubled families lead. We already knew that they were stuck in a rut and costing the taxpayer billions of pounds every year without intervention through the demand they put on services.

But these figures show that the scale of their problems is truly shocking and puts the achievement of having turned around 53,000 troubled families already into an even starker light. That’s why I’m pleased we will be taking the hands on, tough love approach of the Troubled Families programme even further and faster and will start work with up to 40,000 additional families this year.

Further information

Read the Understanding Troubled Families report.

As part of the national evaluation of the Troubled Families programme, each of the 152 upper tier local authorities were asked to randomly select at least 10% of the families they have started work with so far and provide information about their profile and their problems on entry to the programme. This included information on employment, education, crime, housing, child protection, parenting and health, in order to capture the range of problems present. Although local authorities were asked to randomly select the sample of families for monitoring purposes, it is not possible to be certain that families were chosen randomly in all cases. For example, the findings may be more likely to include families which local authorities have more data about. Not all the characteristics described here will necessarily be representative across the whole 120,000 families who will be helped by the Troubled Families programme over its lifetime.

This report describes the families who entered the Troubled Families programme up to December 2013, examining some of the problems they had at the point at which local authorities started working with them as part of the programme. It also discusses the implications of these findings and how local authorities are now changing the way they work with families.

Information was submitted by 133 authorities, a return rate of 89% and covers 8,447 families comprising 11,449 adults and 16,277 children, which represents 11% of the families worked with over this period.

Read the report setting out the more detailed initial findings of the data, produced by Ecorys.

The average of 9 problems is based on those families for which full data were available across every problem (1,048 families)

The Troubled Families programme applies to England only.

Troubled families are defined as those who:

  • are involved in youth crime or anti-social behaviour
  • have children who are excluded from school or regularly truanting
  • have an adult on out-of-work benefits
  • cost the public sector large sums in responding to their problems, an estimated average of £75,000 per year without intervention

Earlier this month the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced that almost 52,833 troubled families had had their lives turned around since the programme began in April 2012.

Turning around troubled families means:

  • getting children back into school
  • cutting youth crime and anti-social behaviour across the whole family
  • getting adults into work
  • reducing the costs to the taxpayer of tackling their problems

See full details of the government’s payment by results framework for troubled families.

Local authorities are paid up to £4,000 on a payment-by-results basis for turning around troubled families. The government’s £448 million 3-year budget for 2012 to 2015 is drawn from 6 Whitehall departments who all stand to benefit from the public sector working more effectively with troubled families.

At the Spending Review last year it was announced that the Troubled Families programme would be expanded to work with more families. TheBudget in March 2014 announced that work with up to 40,000 of these families would begin this year.

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