In the first phase of the “Troubled Families programme” which operated from 2012-2015 there were 540 families “turned round” in Hammersmith and Fulham.
The approach a single individual works with the whole family. Nationally this is described in the following terms:
“Whole family working is central to the Troubled Families approach to supporting families with complex needs. It moves beyond former approaches to service delivery in which: uncoordinated services gave families multiple assessments, thresholds and measures, often engaged with just one family member and focused solely on the main presenting problem. Instead, the approach engages the whole family – parents and children (and sometimes a wider network of family members), to work together to understand and overcome their multiple problems. A keyworker* undertakes a family assessment and works with the family to agree a whole family plan – a written agreement which sets out the type of support the family needs from services as well as targets and commitments the family has made. The keyworker identifies strengths that the family may have and involves the family coming up with solutions. The keyworker acts as an advocate for the family, and coordinates services around them so that they don’t have to keep repeating their stories to multiple professionals. The keyworker helps the family to build resilience so they can manage their own problems. They review progress with the family against their agreed goals and support the family to step-down from the programme once the goals have been reached and their dependence on services reduced. They help families change their lives for the better.”
There is a system of payment by results for local authorities – measured by the reduction of the number of children excluded from schools, family members engaged in crime, and adults stuck on welfare.
This report from 2014 gave a sense of what was achieved in Hammersmith and Fulham where the initiative operated on a tri-borough basis:
Over the last 18 months an exercise was conducted tracking the progress of 326 families open to the Family Coaches for more than 3 months. Of these families, 200 have been fully analysed as they have data sets at both entry and closure points.
There is clear evidence that the families working with the Coaches have made significant progress on a range of issues many of whom were triaged as being quite far from change. The key findings for those affected in the cohort by each issue are below:
Fixed term exclusions Down by 65%
Behavioural problems (children) Down 42%
Truancy Down 59%
Families at risk of eviction Down 58% ( down to only 10% at risk)
Rent arrears Down 25%
Adult anti-social behaviour Down 80%
Child anti-social behaviour Down 58%
Adult proven offences Down 20%
Child proven offences Down 55%
Domestic abuse Down 30%
Gang affiliated Down 30%
Adults in treatment for substance misuse Up 36%
Adults into employment Up 35% (20 adults) so that 25% cohort in work at end of intervention.
The Government are operating an expanded version of the programme for 2015-2020. The annual report for 2017/18 is very encouraging. It shows that so far another 389 families in Hammersmith and Fulham have been “turned round” – they have made “significant and sustained progress as at 9th March 2018.” This includes 114 previously workless households where at least one family member has “achieved continuous employment”. Nationally a study of families on the programme measured against a “comparison group” found the number of children going into care was halved. That consequence alone would make it good value for money for the taxpayer – despite the sniping from critics.
Lots of facts and figures but behind them are some powerful success stories – both locally and nationally. Good news – and therefore unlikely to be widely reported. But important nevertheless.