UK Politics

Another 400,000 'high-risk' households to get help

Police officer talking to girl
Image caption Ministers say problem families are costing the state billions of pounds

The government's "troubled families" project is to be extended to help a further 400,000 households who have financial and social problems.

An additional £200m will be made available to help "high-risk" families address challenges of worklessness, anti-social behaviour and truancy.

Ministers say the current three-year scheme is already on track to help 120,000 families in England by 2015.

But campaigners say tackling entrenched problems will require more resources.

The new funding, for 2015/16, is being made available by the Treasury as part of Wednesday's Spending Review.


The initiative is designed to identify families with a number of deep-seated problems - including welfare dependency and a history of drug and alcohol misuse - and to provide intensive and co-ordinated support to help them turns their lives around.

The government says the cost of dealing with one troubled family, in terms of their interaction with the NHS, social services and the police, can be as much as £15,000 a year and investing a third of that on early intervention and tailored assistance will reduce the overall burden.

"These families cost the government about £9bn in public spending," said Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

"By getting services to work together, by helping families to deal with their problems from the root causes, not only we can turn people lives around but in the long run we can save a lot of money too. It is a win-win for everybody."

Under the existing £448m scheme, families are assigned case workers to ensure children are attending school, appointments are kept and to co-ordinate the responses of different services.

Similar support will now be made available to another 400,000 vulnerable families to ensure they do not reach "crisis point".

The government will provide 40% of the extra funding needed to extend the scheme with contributions from five different departments: Work and Pensions; Communities and Local Government; Health; Justice and Education.

Local authorities and other partners will be expected to provide the remainder.


Agencies bidding for the initial government funding will have to provide detailed plans about how they will adapt their services to provide maximum value for money and will only be paid in full when targets are met.

The official in charge of the project, Louise Casey, told MPs the challenge was not simply to get children back into school on a regular basis for three consecutive terms - the main criterion for payments - but to go further and tackle "inter-generational issues of abuse and behaviour".

"It is a programme of the head, in terms of the finances and it is a programme of the heart, in terms of what we can do about the children and the families," she told the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee.

The current system was "uncoordinated and reactive" and it would be a "missed opportunity" if it did not change, she added.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, said the scheme's extension was a "vote of confidence".

"Councils have long recognised preventing problems before they happen makes far more sense than trying to fix them when it is too late," said chairman Sir Merrick Cockell.

But he added: "Further cuts to local government funding will make it increasingly hard to provide the key services that troubled families will need to access to tackle the challenges they face."

The coalition insists the initiative is working despite concerns from campaigners that its focus is too narrow.

In its last update in March, the government said it had identified 62,000 families to work with, was helping more than 23,000 and had made results-based payments for turning around 1,675.

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