‘Troubled families’ Themed Section of Social Policy and Society

A themed section of the journal Social Policy and Society, examining the Troubled Families Programme is being published online in the coming weeks.

Three of the articles (by John Welshman, Andrew Sayer, and Michael Lambert and myself) have been published already – https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/social-policy-and-society/firstview – and four more (from John Macnicol, Alex Nunn and Daniela Tepe-Belfrage, Sue Bond-Taylor, and Aniela Wenham) will be published in the coming weeks.

Best wishes,

Steve

Second phase of the Troubled Families Programme to be even more successful than the first

An interesting discussion took place in the House of Lord yesterday, around the leaked report of the evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme.  Lord Bourne, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, got quite a hard time and had to clarify his remark that ‘the government was working on the report’ and claimed that the delay in publishing the report was because the government had to ‘to ensure that all the statistics and data are properly assessed’. The government has had the report for over 12 months now.

Whilst Lord Bourne was understandably reluctant to comment on the leaked report, which suggested that the first phase of the programme had ‘no discernible impact’ on many of the issues (crime, anti-social behaviour, worklessness, education attendance and exclusion) it was supposed to be targeting, he showed no such reticence in predicting that the second phase of the programme would be even more successful than the first. Stating that the government had ‘learned some of the lessons from the first programme’, he concluded the debate with the following statement:

I believe that the first programme was a success and the second will be even more successful.

 

 

‘Looking for trouble’? The role of the voluntary sector in the Troubled Families Programme

NETSRG

‘Looking for trouble?’
The role of the voluntary sector in the Troubled  Families Programme

The government’s Troubled Families Programme is one of the most high-profile and contentious social policies in recent years. Although it is managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government and administered by local authorities, the voluntary sector has played a key role at various points in its development and implementation. This paper adopts a critical stance and examines, for example, the role of the voluntary sector in: promoting previous constructions of ‘an underclass’; the development of the ‘family intervention’ model in a voluntary sector project in Dundee; providing enthusiastic support for the Troubled Families Programme despite numerous criticisms of it.

Thursday 29th September 2016, 3PM-5PM
Room 035, Lipman Building, Northumbria University
All welcome, please book at Eventbrite and visit our Facebook and Twitter accounts

The Q3 NETSRG meeting will by a special session led by Stephen Crossley.
Stephen is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at Northumbria University and a PhD student in the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University.

 

The trouble with the Troubled Families Programme – repeating the failed attempts of the past

Following the BBC Newsnight report last week into the ‘suppressed’ evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme, I, along with Michall Lambert, have contributed a blog post for the LSE Politics and Policy blog examining the history of evaluations of similar family intervention style projects.

The blog can be found here

Cheers,

Steve

The Troubled Families Programme: in, for and against the state?

I’ve had a chapter published in the latest Social Policy Review, the annual publication of the Social Policy Association.

The Troubled Families Programme: in, for and against the state?

Abstract

The Troubled Families Programme (TFP), established by the Coalition Government in the aftermath of the 2011 riots, set out to ‘turn around’ the lives of the 120,000 most ‘troubled families’ in England. When the rhetoric surrounding ‘troubled families’ is closely examined, a number of competing, and often contradictory, messages begin to emerge. This chapter examines the ways in which the Troubled Families Programme is positioned firstly by central government and secondly by local authorities and practitioners. Adopting a ‘street-level lens’ (Brodkin 2011a), interviews with managers and workers in one local authority area are analysed to examine ‘the complexity of interactions concealed beneath the apparent monotony of bureaucratic routine’ (Bourdieu, 2005: 140). The chapter concludes with reflections on the Janus-faced nature of the Troubled Families Programme and a discussion of its role in the crafting of a new ‘smart’ state.

I’ve uploaded a pre-review section of the chapter to my Academia profile here and you should also be able to see a pdf of it by clicking the link below.

In for and against the state pre-review

Steve

Seminar on the ‘Implications of the Welfare Reform and Work Act’

If you’re in the North East and at a loose end on the afternoon of Friday 10th June, the information below, about a seminar on the Welfare Reform and Work Act, might be of interest to you….

A flyer for the even can be found here

Implications of the Welfare Reform and Work Act for low income children and families in the North East

A joint seminar organised by the Institute for Local Governance (ILG) and North East Child Poverty Commission (NECPC)

10th June 2016,

1-3.45pm

Lindisfarne Centre,

Durham University

The government’s Welfare Reform and Work Act achieved Royal Assent in March 2016 and has now passed into law. It holds significant implications for how child poverty is defined, measured and addressed in the UK. The Act marks a policy movement away from income-based measures of poverty and the removal of statutory obligations on local authorities to reduce child poverty. Instead, it emphasises tackling worklessness, improving educational attainment and supporting ‘Troubled’ families as the most effective ways to increase the life chances of children living in poverty.

This seminar will explore the potential implications of the Act for the life chances of children living in low income families in the North East, focusing on three key aspects of the Act: the changing definition and measurement of child poverty; extension of the Troubled Families programme (and its effectiveness); and the impact of welfare reform on low income families.

Draft programme

Registration from 12.45pm 1-1.10pm

Chair’s welcome (Phillip Edwards, Institute for Local Governance)

1.10-1.30pm Introduction to the Welfare Reform and Work Act (Dr Deborah Harrison, NECPC)

1.30-2pm Changing definitions and measurement of child poverty (Bishop Paul Butler)

2-2.30pm The ‘Troubled Families’ programme (Stephen Crossley, Durham University)

2.30-2.45pm Coffee break

2.45-3.15pm Welfare reform, foodbank use and low income families in Stockton-on-Tees (Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite, Durham University)

3.15-3.40pm Panel discussion

3.40-3.45pm Closing remarks(Phillip Edwards)

This seminar is intended to be of interest to a wide audience including researchers and academics, Local Authorities and other public sector agencies, housing providers, third sector organisations, schools and children’s services. This event is free but places are limited and tend to book up quickly.

To register, please email janet.atkinson@durham.ac.uk. If you would like to find out more about the North East Child Poverty Commission, you can visit our website: http://www.nechildpoverty.org.uk or contact the Coordinator deborah.harrison@durham.ac.uk .

Fast policy, slow evaluation…

… be in no doubt – we are in a hurry, we mean to deliver. You don’t need to talk about it or show empathy. I want you to get on with it. And I know local government can get results. But understand – this isn’t either or. We are going to deliver on this. So get moving. 

Eric Pickles, 17 October, 2011

I’ve written before (and here) on how the Troubled Families Programme (TFP) can be understood as a good example of the phenomenon that Peck & Tickell call ‘fast policy’ whereby an off-the-shelf policy fix (‘family intervention’ in this case) can be quickly dusted off, thereby shortening any pilot or implementation stages, and smoothing the way for rapid expansion.

One area where DCLG appear to be taking their time, however, is with the official evaluation of the first phase of the programme. This, of course, is no bad thing and I don’t want to suggest that these things should be rushed. But given the speed at which the TFP was established and then expanded, the length of time it is taking to publish results from the evaluation appears at odds with the prorgamme’s overall approach to ‘getting on with it’.

In October last year, I wrote to the DCLG asking them if they could provide me with the titles of any reports they had received as part of the official evaluation and the dates they had received them. They initially refused to provide me with this info, but, following a review, I was provided with the following dates and titles of reports that had been received from Ecorys, the lead partner in the evaluation consortium:

  • National Evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme: Final Synthesis report [DRAFT] – 18 September 2015
  • National Evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme: – Technical report: impact evaluation using survey data [DRAFT] – 15 October 2015
  • National Evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme: – Findings from the Analysis of National Administrative Data [DRAFT] – 28 August 2015
  • National Evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme: Report on the Process evaluation [DRAFT] – 1 September 2015
  • National Evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme: Family experiences report [DRAFT] – 7 October 2015
  • National Evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme: Survey Technical report [DRAFT] – 9 October 2015
  • National Evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme: Family Monitoring Data final report [DRAFT] – 9 October 2015

The original response to my initial request did state that:

The department will be aiming to publish the evaluation within 12 weeks of final sign-off in accordance with Government Statistical Research guidelines, and current expectations are that we will achieve sign-off of the evaluation materials by the end of this calendar year.

According to the government’s own expectations, then, the evaluation should have been published by now (twelve weeks from the start of the New Year would have been around the 21 March). The final synthesis report has been with the DCLG for nearly seven months now and still we don’t know what the official evaluation has to say about the programme. The initial response also stated that the evaluation would be published once ‘the necessary quality assurance processes’ had been completed, which, again, is entirely understandable.

However, the delay does raise some interesting questions. I wonder, for example, if the evaluation was positive and produced some robust justification for the programme, would there have been such a delay in publishing it? Given that the ‘quality assurance processes’ are taking such a long time, does this indicate a problem or problems with the data collected during the evaluation? And given that nearly seven months (and counting) has passed between submission of the final report and its publication, how different will the published version be to the initial draft, after seven months of revising and redrafting?

If anyone has any answers to these questions, please do let me know.