An interesting exchange about ‘troubled families’ took place yesterday in the House of Commons. A few oral questions were put to Eric Pickles about the success of the scheme and he responded to them. The exchange below was part of the wider set of questions and answers:
Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State clarify whether a family can be considered “turned around” if they are still committing crimes or engaging in antisocial behaviour?
Mr Pickles: The short answer is no. We went about it in a very straightforward way and so have some very straightforward criteria. Basically, the kids must be in school, and for three terms, which is why there is a bit of a lag, and somebody must be on the road to work, in the same way that they will be within a programme, and the incidence of antisocial behaviour on the estate must have been reduced measurably (my emphases).
But this isn’t true. A family is considered ‘turned round’ if it meets certain educational and anti-social behaviour criteria or someone has got a job. The ‘on the road to work’ criteria that Mr Pickles mentions is a criteria that had been met by 2025 families as of October 2013.
In fact, 1430 families have been classed as having been ‘turned round’ without any indication of, or indeed interest in, what their levels of anti-social behaviour or educational attendance are. The 22,000 families that have been ‘turned round’ according to Mr Pickles are a cumulative total of those families that have achieved either crime/ASB & education outcomes or those that have achieved employment outcomes NOT those that have achieved both.
Mr Pickles also stated that he did not think there was a ‘scintilla of truth’ in a statement which suggested that families were being classed as ‘turned around’ even if there was a reduction rather than a cessation of truanting or anti-social behaviour. However, as Annex C on pages 18-20 of the TFP Financial Framework clearly shows, local authorities can claim funding from the government for ‘turning round’ a family if there is a 60% reduction in ASB and fewer than 3 fixed term exclusions and less than 15% unauthorised absences from school. This, to me, amounts to a reduction rather than a cessation….
So when Mr Pickles said ‘the short answer is no’, one can only surmise that he really meant ‘yes’, unless he is completely unfamiliar with the programme for which he is responsible and on which he speaks regularly. If he didn’t, it’s hard to find ‘a scintilla of truth’ in what he said….
A longer exploration on what turning round a ‘troubled family really means can be found here