This blog supports an ESRC funded PhD exploring the recontextualisation and operationalisation of the Troubled Families Programme. Essentially, I’m interested in looking at how the key workers (or ‘troubleshooters’ as David Cameron has called them) are enacting the troubled families agenda and if/how they are negotiating it and/or resisting it. I’m also interested in how families are reacting to the involvement of the key worker.

I am also interested in the historical ‘reconstructions’ of small groups of families who are viewed as threats to society. Last year I wrote three blog posts on The Trouble with ‘troubled families’ (which I’ve re-blogged here, here and here) not knowing that, over 50 years ago, a book called ‘The Problem of the Problem Family’ was published, authored by A.F.Philp and Noel Timms. The similarities do not end there however. In the foreword to the book, and using language very much ‘of the time’ Richard Titmuss writes that:

“(it would be true to say) that there is a long, though discontinuous tradition in this country of concern about a segment of families in the population, supposedly characterised by similar traits, and thought to represent a closed, pathological entity – in Lidbetter’s phrase, ‘a race of subnormals’. This ill defined group has come in for a great deal of attention of attention and investigation. Survey has followed survey. Many remedies have been proposed and some pursued. A variety of measures have been put into practice by voluntary and statutory bodies. Yet … the debate about the ‘problem family’ has been conducted in a singularly uncritical manner. Precisison in the use of words and in the observation of phenomena has been generally lacking; heterogeneity has been mistaken for homogeneity; biological theories have obscured the study of psychological and sociological factors; the classifciation and counting of ‘abnormals’ has proceeded regardless of the need to set them in the context of contemporary social norms; in short, what knowledge has been gained from all these inquiries has not accumulated on any theoretical foundations.

Whether we think of them as vagabonds, ‘problems’, vagrants, social defectives, nomads, gypsies, tramps, clochards, bohemians or as sub-humans, the attitude that society adopts to its deviants, and especially its poor and inarticulate deviants, reflects its ultimate values. To provide social services is not enough. To engage in voluntary activity or to administer conscientiously is not enough. We must learn to understand the moral presuppositions underlying our actions. This, if nothing else, is reason enough for … the social worker to recognise the duality of her responsibilities to the individual and to society.”

The PhD doesn’t start until October 2013 and more updates will be added then but the intention is to use the blog as a kind of progress report on how the research is going.

The working title of the research is taken from the Ogden Nash poem ‘The Terrible People’.

“The Terrible People”

Perhaps indeed the possession of wealth is constantly distressing,

But I should be quite willing to assume every curse of wealth if I could at the same time assume every blessing.

The only incurable troubles of the rich are the troubles that money can’t cure,

Which is a kind of trouble that is even more troublesome if you are poor.

Certainly there are lots of things in life that money won’t buy, but it’s very funny…

Have you ever tried to buy them without money?

Stephen Crossley

s.j.crossley@durham.ac.uk / stephen.crossley@northumbria.ac.uk 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s