Coverage of the recent announcement regarding the ‘success’ of the Troubled Families Programme (TFP) in turning round over 105,000 families appears to have missed a very interesting finding from the release of the local authority figures. The government press release accompanying the news states that
There are 117,910 families targeted under the government’s Troubled Families programme. For rounding purposes, however, the target is usually referred to as 120,000
The TFP has apparently achieved a 100% success rate in local authorities identifying exactly the same amount of troubled families in their area as the indicative number provided by the government – the total number of families identified and worked with by local authorities comes to 117,910. Every single local authority has identified every single ‘troubled family’ in its area and every single local authority has begun working with them. The practice on the ground, therefore, represents a perfect alignment with the information provided by politicians and civil servants in Whitehall. This is despite the data used to identify the number of ‘troubled families’ being 6 years out of date and compiled for completely different purposes and identifying potentially very different families.
The figures also highlight that local authorities have performed better than the DCLG expected they would. On page 2 of the Financial Framework guidance for the TFP, the following statement can be found:
You may not succeed in turning around every family that you work with, and therefore it is likely you will need to work with more families than your indicative numbers.
Not one local authority has needed to work with more than their indicative number in order to ‘turn around’ all of their families. In fact, many local authorities can demonstrate a 100% success rate not just in identifying and working with ‘troubled families’ but in turning them around. Manchester, for example have identified, worked with and turned around a staggering 2385 ‘troubled families’. Not one has ‘slipped through the net’ or refused to engage with the programme. Leeds and Liverpool have a perfect success rate in each ‘turning around’ over 2000 ‘troubled families. By my reckoning, over 50 other local authorities across the country have been similarly ‘perfect’ in their TF work. Not one single case amongst those 50 odd councils where more ‘troubled families’ were identified or where a ‘troubled family’ has failed to have been turned around. It is also staggering that work with some of the most disadvantaged families who have allegedly been immune to all previous policy interventions and whose ‘troubles’ have existed ‘for generations’ has been so successful at a time of wide-ranging and deep cuts to local authorities and others public services. But, we must believe the government on this. For whilst the figures do not constitute ‘official statistics’, the government surely wouldn’t have published them if they knew them to be false or misleading….
So there we have it. The Troubled Families Programme. The perfect social policy.