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 688.

    Unfortunately irresponsible people breed & bring up irresponsible children. Ok not a general rule of course many responsible people have children & bring them up well. But there are many who just see a child as & extra benefits payment where only part of the extra for the child is spent on the child. rest goes on drink/drugs/fags etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    We dont need more laws just apply those we already have, the law of the land is what it is you are not exempt due to your postcode or if your income is below a certain level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    arent the people that carry out the intervention normally referred to as social workers, so what were saying is we need to employ more to allow them to allocate a dedicated worker to a certain amount of high risk families. Ones that can punish as well as monitor and assist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    I'm eternally thankfully that we have a welfare state. We all need a fail-safe in case of unforeseeable changes in our circumstances that require a helping hand, and the vast majority of people in this country agree with that. However, the balance has clearly gone too far now in the other direction. Benefits are supposed to be there as a safety net, not as a lifestyle choice in and of themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    #588: How about *not* spending £448m on anything. Use this - and vastly larger amounts of other pointless public expenditure - in the first instance to reduce the national deficit/debt, and in the long run to reduce taxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    658. Ginger
    If i breed lots of children and decide not to work i would be financially better off! How does that work!!?? Pfffttt the system definately needs changing!
    I agree in principle, but think not that having children is an easy job. It's hard work - assuming a proper effort is made, of course.

  • Comment number 682.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    3 Minutes ago
    In the long term, what is needed is a modern, non-raciest version of eugenics.
    So, you would advocate it along the lines of what you percieve to be "worth" rather than along the lines of race. And who, exactly, is going to evaluate anyone's "worth"? And if whoever did decide that, then decided YOU had no "worth", I take it you would still be supportive of this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.

    Addressing the problem rather than passing more laws has to be a better approach. It may in the end be cheaper to bombard the useless dregs of society with attention - not money mind you - it may be cheaper to just sit social workers on them 24/7 rather than endlessly recycle them through the penal system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.

    I'm not suggesting the state should dictate to people how they spend their benifits, but I overheard a woman on a train last week talk about how her family are going to Florida for Christmas whilst she claims £400 a month in housing benifit.

    It makes you wonder how people can afford things that are out of reach of many hard working familes whilst still claiming massive amounts of benifits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 678.

    4 Hours ago

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


    In media studies. And we wonder why so many of them are unemployed?

    That 5% you mention was mostly mathematics, sciences, and other subjects that are useful to society, not the opposite.

  • rate this

    Comment number 677.

    Actually i was once with a scrounger that never did an honest days work in his life, he used to go to the job centre to see his 'friend' and he never had to attend one interview to get his benefits. He told me that you just have to stand in there and seem to be looking through the list of jobs and that's that you get your money!

  • rate this

    Comment number 676.

    Ok, bottom line, the population of the world is growing too fast, soon we will be in deep trouble with far too many people. Question, do we do something now to address this, & do we want the future world to be populated by decent, civilised, hard working, respectful people? If yes, then a hard line has to be drawn before it is too late!

  • rate this

    Comment number 675.

    [ 649.sheila coleman
    In Germany you can only claim benefits for one year, you will not be given more job or not. The responsibilty is on the person.]

    And if there are no jobs? Have you seen the latest unemployment figures?

  • rate this

    Comment number 674.

    656 potatolord
    What's your 26-year-old long-term unemployed with a criminal record been doing to get a criminal record in the first place?
    If they had the correct upbringing to start with, they probably WOULDN'T be long-term unemployed with a criminal record.

  • Comment number 673.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 672.

    Just words. They will achieve nothing. Their traitorous "review" of fathers' rights ultimately deciding on "no change" destroyed the possibility of fixing broken Britain.
    So many single parent families, women who have kids to get a divorce settlement, benefits, a council house etc. If you want to prevent this, stop painting a target on peoples' backs and let the highest earning parent have custody

  • rate this

    Comment number 671.

    3733 pounds per family to try to help them if i mentored 9 families 33.5k a year not a bad wage and if you dont succeed then you just hand them to the gov departments that already exist I assume.

  • rate this

    Comment number 670.

    @652.shoelace - I'm not really sure what your point is but I'm guessing that your point is that most are like that and simply cannot be helped.

    I don't deny there are people who do things as you have stated.

    But perhaps if in the 80s we had not discarded the idea of a community working together we wouldn't be at this junction.

    Less Nazi jack boot - more community spirit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    Stop paying the troublesome families benefits

    Make them get jobs and earn a living.

    Then they won't get bored and go off causing mischief and living the life of riley, crime, drinking, drugs, hundreds of chav kids.

    "Birth control when on the dole" would be a good campaign slogan...


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