Troubleshooters scheme to tackle 'troubled families'


David Cameron: ''People in troubled families aren't worthless... I will not allow them to be written off''

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David Cameron says he is determined to "get to grips" with tackling England's most troubled families by pledging a network of troubleshooters.

The PM promised more targeted support, with families getting one dedicated worker rather than a "string of well-meaning, disconnected officials".

The government will provide £448m - but councils must provide 60% of funding.

Labour say ministers have cut Family Intervention Projects and the work councils had been doing on the issue.

Mr Cameron has promised to turn around the lives of 120,000 families by 2015.

Under the government's measure, families need to meet five out of seven criteria - including truanting children, parents with addiction and anti-social behaviour - to be classified as "troubled".

'Ruining their lives'

The government is diverting £448m from existing departmental budgets over four years to help pay for a network of people who will identify families in need of help, make sure they get access to the right services and ensure that action is taken.

But the money will only cover 40% of costs, and councils who want to use it will have to agree to fund the other 60% themselves. Workers will be "paid by results", Mr Cameron said - for example, are children in school and has anti-social behaviour stopped?

Progress will be reported to Louise Casey, the newly appointed head of the Troubled Families Team.

BBC political correspondent Carole Walker said local authorities would hire the troubleshooters, who could be from organisations including local charities and private firms.

But she said there were some concerns that the money was not enough to tackle the problem, and cash-strapped councils would have to find much of the funding themselves.

A map showing areas with "troubled" families

Families which refuse to co-operate could face benefit sanctions or eviction - but Downing Street says the vast majority want help with their problems.

In a speech in Birmingham, Mr Cameron said he was an optimist, and the families depicted in the press as "neighbours from hell" should not be "written off as unreadable or unteachable".

He rejected arguments that a "Shameless culture" was now part of British life, and said it was only a relatively small amount of people who were causing "a large proportion of problems in our society".

He said there had to be a big change in the way the state interacted with such families, as different agencies currently dealt with different problems: "No-one sees the whole family, no-one grips the whole problem."

Instead of a top-down approach which families could find "faceless, disjointed and unhelpful", he wanted to "empower" families to sort out their own problems by providing them with a single person to deal with.

While he said his scheme was a "big ask", he believed turning their lives around was "doable".

Ministers are modelling their strategy on the family intervention project adopted by the last Labour government, in which a single social worker is sent in to gain an overview of the problems facing a family and to recommend the best course of action.

The prime minister said troubleshooters would work out a plan of action with families, which could include basic things like getting children to school on time and making sure they were properly fed.

And they would help deal with the "28 or more different state services that come calling at the door" so that rather than a string of "disconnected" officials, they could get a "clear hard-headed recognition of how the family is going wrong".

'Incredibly effective'

Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers and a former Labour MP, criticised the PM's words about officials as "yet another pointless attack on the very people whose life's work it is to help others".

Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of the charity Action for Children, which works with troubled families, welcomed the "renewed focus" on the issue and said that in her experience, a lot of the families felt overwhelmed and were "delighted" to have help sorting out their problems.

"If you can get alongside them - and the voluntary sector is particularly good at doing that - and help them to work out solutions to their own problems, in a co-ordinated way, that can be incredibly effective."

Start Quote

If David Cameron demands results from local authorities whilst pulling the carpet from beneath them while reforms are being shelved, this could be a wasted opportunity”

End Quote Gloria De Piero Shadow home office minister

Ministers say troubled families are costing the state an estimated £9bn a year in terms of spending on the NHS, the police and social services.

Most support for families is now provided through local authorities, although sometimes contracted out to other organisations. However, funding for early intervention grants has been cut by more than 10%.

Barnardo's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said the voluntary sector had an important role to play in helping families and should be involved in planning and delivering services.

But she added: "Worryingly, 67% of Barnardo's services that have been hit hardest by local authority cuts have been those which provide family support or early intervention for children in difficulty. This means some families now have to wait until their problems are more serious before getting the help they need."

For Labour, Gloria De Piero said there was only so much troubleshooters could do when cuts were hitting family intervention projects.

"In addition, the government has torn up Labour's total place programme, which was bringing together all of the local agencies needed to provide services to families, and saved money, setting this work back.

"This is important work but if David Cameron demands results from local authorities whilst pulling the carpet from beneath them while reforms are being shelved, this could be a wasted opportunity to properly expand Labour's family intervention policies."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    This is all about 'jobs for the boys'. Where there's a yob,there's a well paid job..........not to mention all the other perks,pensions and priveleges that come with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Here we go again the posts are turning to lets sterilise them take away the benefits put em in the workhouse and all the other posts from the haves please be real we are not all the same i have known some of these families who would help others out unlike some of the haves who would not give you the time of day

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    Eric Pickles sums up all that is wrong with this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    @ Alastair 192 - spot on.
    And not only that our benefits system gives out more if these spongers have large families. Decent working families have the children that they can afford, the spongers have more to gain more money. And it works, I've personally known families using this tactic to get benefits and larger houses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    These poor souls are affected by crime and addiction? It's not a disease; it's against the law! They spend their benefits at the pub, smoking and showing off their new tattoos. We could save a fortune by not funding the new additions to these problem families - especially the single girls who are gunning for a council flat. I know of three people who openly admit to this strategy in St Albans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    Until, as a society, we accept that we are not just "entitled" to everything, we are never going to solve the problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    It is quite bizarre the people on here who think a return to some fantasy victorian regime of cruelty and punishment with no benefits nor social housing would actually improve anything and that with one swift swipe of their rolled up Daily Wail all the feckless would trot off to imaginary jobs and a life of useful service. That worked no better than the liberalism you so despise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    I support the governments attempt to try and tackle this problem, provided it is properly funded and carried out with the best intentions.
    However, the government must accept some responsibility for the future social problems we are going to experience due to high unemployment, savage spending cuts and fewer opportunities for people from poorer backgrounds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Clearly there is a problem which needs addressed. There should perhaps be a carrot-and-stick system whereby people of good behaviour (ie No criminal offences ever) are rewarded with some kind of citizenship award (automatically revoked if you commit an offence). Reward the good kids. At the same time we need to Really punish people. Stop the benefits of re-offenders. Simple. 3 strikes you're out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    I thought that the feckless addicts with broken families all pretend to do a proper job work in the City of London money houses and fully employed already

    From what I've heard they can well afford to fix their addictions and multi wife family problems by themselves. No need for Mr Fawlty to intervene yet again. He has just done that on their behalf with the EU. No more nanny state for them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    It's all very well trying to help families with problems. That is very different to trying to help problem families. Some people no matter what is done will not respond positively and will just look for ways to exploit the extra help being offered.
    We need to identify and target those most likely to respond positively to the help offered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.


    Send your 'troubleshooters' out, Mr Cameron, to help the families who have been left homeless as a result of your cap on Housing Benefit."

    You mean the housing benefit cap that's not even in place yet? And £400 a week not enough for you? Funny, that's more than most working people can afford.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    What is wrong with our new breed of politians? I think we need rules which don't allow public office without some kind experience in the real world first. Its obvious from much of the tripe thats been spouted in recently including this, that they really don't have a clue about real life - don't bother re inventing the wheel or introducing new quangos - a bit od commonsense is all thats required!

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Instinctively we may scoff at the proposals.
    In my own community, most problems were caused by the same families, sometimes through generations of the same locally known names.
    When these families were targeted by police, social services, and their social housing providers, real progress was made.
    We have a better community; my only question is why it took so long.

  • Comment number 194.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Here we go. Identify a social problem. Government to intervene. Appoint an army of bureaucrats at a cost of millions, who will form a career hierarchy and continue to drain the taxpayer. Future problems? Govt will say - we have spent £X millions on it. Opposition will say, not enough. Hey, has anyone thought of just giving money directly to the lower inpome groups? Oh no. We need to control them

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    When did this country become so angry and embittered?

    When the everyman got taxed up the wazoo to pander to the lazy, feckless, work shy and self entitled whilst the full time hard worker was passed over again & again & again whilst being used as a cash cow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.


    "the reintroduction of National Service and corporal punishment in schools "

    Sadly Total Rubbish - We had higher crime and poverty when we had National Service - Check your History - And teaching them to use guns is GOOD???

    When we had caning - only 5% of children got degrees - with Labour Comprehensive humane schools we had fifty percent awarded degrees. Far Better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    I'm not opposed to the idea of helping people to become useful productive members of society, but...

    How effective will this initiative be? The cynic in me thinks that it is largely a means of transferring Government cash into the pockets of a few high-visibility groups, set up for the purpose by "the friends of the Tories". A PR exercise at best, a fraud under the Big Society at worst.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    151.andy-m - whilst a few people are genuinely lazy, most of the current crop of well over 2M unemployed are unemployed because there is a lack of jobs out there full stop.

    Employers (understandably) prefer hiring recently employed people because they are in the groove - I'm willing to bet a large % of the current unemployed have never before signed on in their lives until now.....


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