Last Wednesday, the Queens’ included mention of new duties in relation to the Troubled Families Programme in her speech to open a new session of Parliament. Queen Elizabeth, who knows a thing or two about ‘troubled families’ herself (marital breakdowns, domestic disagreements being played out in public, inter-generational cultures of worklessness, being publicly perceived as ‘spongers’ ‘living off the state’, grandchildren dressing up as Nazis, allegations of criminal behaviour, etc. etc.), formally announced the expansion of the TFP, (fully two years after the govt first announced it) and revealed that, as part of the new Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill, there would be new duties to report on progress on the TFP:
Troubled Families Programme: The Bill includes a duty to report annually on progress of the Troubled Families programme. The Bill also seeks to place a requirement on public bodies to provide information to the Secretary of State in order that he may fulfil that duty. (pp14-15 here)
This is interesting, I think for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the TFP has previously been portrayed as a voluntary scheme that all local authorities have ‘signed up to’ willingly. This formalization through legislation on reporting progress and providing information to the Secretary of State suggests a shift in how voluntary participation in the TFP might become for local authorities and their partners. Secondly, the stats provided regarding progress on the TFP will achieve even greater legitimacy, despite the very, very dodgy methodologies behind them (see here, here, here and here) for examples. In Phase 2 where measuring the progress of families will become very dependent on the professional judgement of workers, we really shouldn’t reporting this stuff in the same official way that, for example, child poverty statistics or labour market statistic are, or might be, reported. Secondly, the TFP has previously stood apart from a lot of other govt programmes and hasn’t been previously attached to any legislation. The announcement of new duties, in amongst other welfare ‘reforms’ marks a shift for the TFP. The announcements in the Queens Speech about new duties surrounding the TFP, a more formal, official, legal basis for the programme, and its co-location with announcements about reducing the benefit cap and the removal of automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18-021 year-olds, suggests that the way of working/dealing(?) with marginalised families via the TFP is being cemented into place in the state.
And, as if by some pre-established harmony, my first peer-reviewed article on the TFP was published on Wednesday in the Families Relationships and Societies journal. I conclude the article with the following sentences:
The political capital expended in the concept, coupled with the rapid expansion of the ‘family intervention’ approach to include a further 400,000 families should provide evidence that the TFP was never intended to be a standalone, time limited project, content to ‘turn round’ the lives of a relatively small number of troublesome families. Casey’s insistence that ‘[t]his time around, there’s no scope for boutique projects; the scope is to do full system change’ suggests that the intention was always more expansive than this. The TFP should therefore be viewed as an integral part of the aggressive neoliberal state-crafting that took place under the coalition government. The expansion of this primarily punitive, muscular interventionist programme suggests that more trouble lies ahead for marginalised and structurally disadvantaged families in the UK.
The article is available here. If you can’t access it, you can sign up for a free trial of the journal (and there’s lots of very good articles in there that are signing up for in their own right) please feel free to e-mail me and I’ll send you a copy of my first draft, which I think I’m allowed to do….
A pdf copy of the ‘author version’ (pre-peer review) is available by clicking on the link below