Little heresies in public policy: ‘Troubled families’ or troubling policy?

I have been invited to do a talk on the Troubled Families Programme as part of the ‘Little Heresies in Public Policy’ seminar series, organised by Newcastle University Business School. The seminar series takes aim at some of the most taken-for-granted aspects of current public policies, such as payment-by-results funding mechanisms, the personalisation agenda, and attempts to measure well-being.

The title of the talk is ”Troubled Families’ or troubling policy?’, it’s on 7 April and it kicks off at 6:00pm. The blurb for the talk is below and more detail, including how to register (it’s free), can be found here

The Troubled Families Programme, launched in the aftermath of the 2011 riots, reputedly works with some of England’s most troublesome and anti-social families. Delivered by local authorities, the government claimed that the first phase of the programme had ‘turned around’ the lives of 99% of the 120,000 ‘troubled families’ identified at the outset of the programme and within the timescale set by David Cameron. Now in its second phase the programme is working with 400,000 more ‘troubled families’, using a ‘persistent, assertive and challenging’ model of ‘family intervention’.

Stephen will examine different aspects of the ‘troubled families’ story that should concern us, including:

  • its intellectual antecedents;
  • the misuse of research evidence throughout the programme;
  • the extent to which the families constitute ‘neighbours from hell’;
  • and the ability of ‘family intervention’ style practices to ‘turn around’ the lives of impoverished and disadvantaged families.


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