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 648.

    Stop giving 'families' money and incentives to have children, for Crying Out Loud!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 647.

    I complete agree with this proposal, the first family I would like to have looked at is the Camerons! They seem to be causing most of the UK some sort of problem!

  • rate this

    Comment number 646.

    A great step in the right direction. Please, please can we also have a 'task force' type appraoch that involves schools, colleges, local authorities and community organisations tackling not just 'families' but some of the whole communites which for generations have not been able to realise their potential.

  • rate this

    Comment number 645.

    Oh dear.... Try to help them eh? Here we go again....
    How about control and contain them so they can't ruin the everyday life's of decent people who have to share the same streets!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 644.


    I know many young people who are about to leave school and are considering higher education. Some of them are from deprived backgrounds, and everyone of them has been put off by the cost.

    All the talk denying falling enrollment rates and a lost generation is propaganda by the media and politicians on the right. The reality is very different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 643.


    I am familiar with it. However the situations are not truly comparable. In the game (and it is a game, and hypothetical) the context is the same for both players and the risks/benefit calculations roughly approximate. Also there is no previous evidence of the likely outcome of co-operation for either player. Not the case here. Past failures makes people unwilling to co-operate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 642.

    NO NO NO, This is not about deprived areas or families this is lawlessness plain and simple. They commit these crimes because they can get away with it, make them think they cant and they will stop, its not hard. The do gooders approach hasnt and never will work, prosecute and punish its the only way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 641.

    The English are not considered a race under any official circumstances
    Sorry, I need some explanation of this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 640.

    The problem with getting people out to work is a simple equation:

    (Money/ hours worked)

    On benefits money is not great but zero hours worked is a pretty good deal.

    Get people out picking up rubbish, cleaning graffitti and generally making the country a better place to live. The step up to a "paying" job will then be an incentive.

    No work = no benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 639.

    18 Minutes ago
    We are people going to understand that support for families is provided by Churches and voluntary organisations that don't recieve state funding.

    That'd be the Chirch that makes £3.5m a day on its investments and pays no tax would it? That's state funding in my book.

  • rate this

    Comment number 638.

    I haven't seen 'parent should stay at home with children under 5' yet. If this were implemented with no pecuniary advantages, having kids on no income wouldn't be an option, kids shouldn't be running around 'wild', they might be better brought up. I remember all the fuss over latch-key kids when I was young - now they are all latch-key kids

  • Comment number 637.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 636.

    Its not about how much money you spend on these things - its how and where its spent.

    In some cases these families arent going to change and dont want to - but if the scheme can find the families that are ready to better themselves with the right support, and not overspend, im all for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 635.

    626. BadlyPackedKebab

    You are incorrect when you label 'Rebecca Riot' as racist. The English are not considered a race under any official circumstances whereas the Irish, the Welsh and the Scots are. So it is possible to claim race discrimination if a member of those nations but not if you are English.

  • rate this

    Comment number 634.

    20 Minutes ago

    581. Rebecca Riot
    "The English are not a nation!"

    Do you serve any useful purpose?


    Of course she does. She always gives me a laugh

  • rate this

    Comment number 633.

    If a family is caught in this awful trap we should do everything we can to help them through and out of it, but this is a two way street and you can only help those who want to be helped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 632.

    Tories me first and if you cant afford it you dont deserve it, Labour you can have it whether you deserve it or not or dont even need it. both attitudes are wrong. Help those who truly need it and punish those who break the laws regardless of back ground and status.

  • rate this

    Comment number 631.

    Talk about just throwing money at a problem is this a Labour Government? Tackling the causes rather than the symptoms would be far more beneficial in the long term, Restoring respect for society and the police for example. Making people feel valued by paying everyone with a job who wants to work a decent amount rather than the pathetic minimum wage to help them have aspirations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 630.

    If Cameron was half as effective at doing things as he is at making empty statements like this which are completely forgotten within a week, the Country would probably be a far better place. Certainly, the legislators would be kept busy drafting new laws 24/7!

  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    Rebecca Riot is there another England somewhere that you live in? OK there's plenty of white scroungers, no-one is denying that. There are also hard-working immigrants. However there are scrounging immigrants and scrounging British non-whites too, plus a whole host of hard-working whites.
    Why bring the race issue up, no-one else has. Scoungers are scroungers. You are clearly an anti-white racist.


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