The BBC Newsnight programme on Monday night had an item about the Troubled Families initiative. This is scheme which aims to “turn round” families with multiple problems – truancy, crime and anti social behaviour, unemployment. The concern had been that previously lot of different state agencies had been involved but not in a coordinated way.
Anyway the Newsnight report suggested that the whole effort had been a failure and that councils had made dishonest claims of a huge success just to get paid extra.
I asked Hammersmith and Fulham Council about this and Sarah Thomas who has been running the programme replied:
We are currently in Year 2 Phase 2 of the Troubled families programme – this time it is a 5 year programme; Phase 1 was a 3 year programme
The programme referred to Phase 1 mainly (i.e. the unpublished Government report they referred too), although I wouldn’t say it was particularly evident to the lay person watching this programme which phase they were referring to at what point;
Phase 2 feels like a different programme compared with phase 1 and would be difficult to compare – phase 2 places significant emphasis on transformation and joint working. The Government have made a number of beneficial changes to the criteria too – for example Phase 2 now includes families with pre-school children, as well as the ‘working poor’, who were previously overlooked.
The other notable change between phase 1 and 2 is that Local Authorities draft their own Troubled Families Outcomes Plan (TFOP), a framework against which the payment by results is measured and paid. At first glance, this might seem like local authorities are ‘writing their own cheques’ but it is far from it. All London Boroughs drafted a single ‘core’ pan London TFOP, which we have ‘localised’ further. DCLG attended our pan London TFOP workshop when this occurred in 2015; they supported this approach.
The data used to identify and report on Troubled Families is gleaned from multiple agencies – it’s not just local LBHF data – we get information and data from Schools, DWP, some VCS and more recently the Police – it took some 2 years of hard negotiation to get a robust pan London information sharing agreement with the Metropolitan Police and our own Troubled Families team were instrumental in this work for all London Boroughs – the reason why we are one of the pilot boroughs. Again, DCLG have been very supportive of this work
All London borough TF leads meet monthly. This has become a strong group, established for almost 5 years, and has been a sounding board for DCLG on occasion – we also receive requests from other government dept to meet with us, including DWP and the Met Police.
LBHF report to DCLG on average every 3 months – we report on the progress our families are making, we contribute to the National evaluation and we complete 2 Payments by Results claim windows each year.
Families are identified and claimed using a two tier process; i.e. data intelligence and human intelligence – We have a robust internal audit process that starts at practice manager level, through to Heads of Service, internal audit themselves and our S151 officer; Our audit process has been endorsed by DCLG.
DCLG do undertake ‘visits’ and spot checks. There is a spot check framework that underpins this process. We recently had a visit from DCLG, when they met with frontline practitioners & managers and they were very complimentary. Further DCLG received a demonstration of our BIDS – Business Intelligence Data System (Data Warehouse) and were extremely impressed – they will be working with us to understand how/if our approach can be up scaled. Further we were invited to meet with DCLG at the Home Office (Dave McNamara came along too) and again, this was a productive meeting, where we discussed LBHF’s transformation.
Over the course of the 5 year TF programme LBHF have to ‘turn round’ 1,690 families. Earlier this year we agreed with DCLG that we would ‘attach’ 460 families (April 2016-March 2017); We have already met this target. Further we are to claim Payments by results for a minimum of 418 families by March 2017. We are currently in a PbR ‘claim window’ and expect to find around 45-50% of these families.
I hope this information reassures you that were are delivering a robust TF programme in LBHF within the auspices of a framework provided by DCLG. The national TF programme isn’t without its flaws, however, we continue to have dialogue with DCLG to ensure that we’re interpreting and delivering a credible programme.”
The DCLG adds:
“Newsnight suggested that it was unrealistic that an area could have achieved a 100% success rate. This is a misunderstanding of the programme. Such a council would have received 100% of government funding available to them, eg 100% of the total number of families they could claim for. However, most if not all areas will have worked with more families than their local target in order to achieve success.”
I believe the Troubled Families initiative is a success and that the attack on it by Newsnight is misleading and unfair.