The Troubled Families Programme: ‘dipstick’ policy-making?

I gave a presentation recently to some MA students on the use and misuse of academic research and evaluation ‘evidence’ in the Troubled Families Programme and thought the slides and links might be of interest to other. The presentation, which includes a number of hyperlinks to original sources and is full referenced, can be accessed by clicking on the image below.

Front slide

In the presentation I try and briefly highlight how research has been used, on both sides of the debate, in previous constructions of the underclass thesis, before moving on to highlight how research has effectively been misused and misrepresented throughout the development of the ‘troubled families’ narrative and the accompanying government programme.

It’s a theme I’ve explored before, in a post for Discover Society here, a working paper on how the government was deliberately misunderstanding troubled families and in the recent Centre for Crime and Justice Studies briefing paper here.

The main reading I recommended for students before the lecture is below:

Bailey, N. (2012) Policy based on unethical research,

Gregg, D. (2010) Family intervention projects: a classic case of policy-based evidence, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies Available at

Levitas, R. (2012) There may be ‘trouble’ ahead: what we know about those 120,000 ‘troubled’ families, PSE UK Policy Response Series No. 3 Available at’Trouble’%20ahead%20(Levitas%20Final%2021April2012).pdf

If anyone wants any more information, or if anything isn’t clear in the presentation slides, please feel free to get in touch.

Best wishes,



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