‘Making trouble’: a Bourdieusian analysis of the UK Government’s Troubled Families Programme

It’s now official, I’m a Doctor.

My PhD thesis is now available online here

And a summary of the thesis and the research, which I have produced for anyone who is interested, but not interested enough to wade through nearly 100,000 words, can be found by clicking on the link below: https://akindoftrouble.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/crossley_making_trouble_summary.pdf


I have received a lot of help and support from followers of this blog over the course of my research and so I would like to thank those people here. You have helped make the PhD a (largely) very enjoyable experience and I know many of you who have read blog posts or provided me with information have shared some of my many frustrations with the programme. I hope my research and writing might have helped in some small way, but I’m not entirely convinced that that will be the case…

Please circulate the summary as widely as possible, if you can, and the thesis although I appreciate that will be a bit of a hard sell to many people. I would like people involved with the programme, in whatever capacity, to read a bit of my research, or at least be aware of it, if possible. I’d also be very interested in speaking to anyone about the research – policy-makers, practitioners, families, etc. so if you are interested in that, please get in touch with me at Northumbria University here:  https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/about-us/our-staff/c/stephen-crossley/

Very best wishes,



Chips and cheese and a massive fucking TV: Stephen Crossley on representations of Britain’s impoverished

I’ve written a blog for Pluto Press, linked to the book. You can see it by clicking on the link below

The Pluto Press Blog - Independent, radical publishing

Crossley T03151From Jamie Oliver’s ‘chips and cheese’ and a ‘massive fucking TV’ comments, to the sneering ‘Benefits Street’, absent from the discourse on Britain’s poor is discussion of the material processes that cause poverty. Instead we see a committed Othering of poor people; a belief in social pathologies and moral inferiority. In this blog, Stephen Crossley author of In Their Place, explores this manipulation of public discourse; examining how often ethnographic research, and the institutions that fund it, often reinforce these stigmatising narratives through methodological approaches and practices.

In Their Place: The Imagined Geographies of Poverty explores how spaces of poverty and representations of disadvantaged people are used by politicians, the media, policy makers and academics to ensure a gap in inequality remains and that everyone knows where the poor belong.


Members of the public could be forgiven for barely batting an eyelid when David Cameron announced in 2014…

View original post 1,836 more words

In Their Place: The Imagined Geographies of Poverty

Hi-Res Cover

My first book (whooppeee!) is being published by Pluto Press on 20th August. And it isn’t on ‘troubled families’…

It’s about the way that different spaces and places are used in the depiction of marginalised groups in politics and social policies.

If you’re interested, you can read the first chapter of the book for free here

More info on the book can be found here

And if you’re tempted to buy it, you can get a 30% discount off the price of £18.99 by entering the promotion code: PLACE in the box in this link here

If anyone has any questions about the book, please ask and I’ll certainly try and answer them.

Best wishes,





The ‘official’ social justice (of the UK government)

I’ve had an article published online by the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice. The article looks at the concept of social justice as it was advanced by the UK Coalition Government in official government policy documents.

Whilst there have been numerous critiques of the welfare reforms and the rhetoric and evidence surrounding them, there has, I think, been relatively little critique of their work on ‘social justice’. So this article looks to address that a little bit. The article can be found here


This article examines the official concept of social justice, as advanced by the Coalition government in the UK between 2010 and 2015. The article begins with a discussion of some traditional comprehensions of social justice and summarises its recent use by political parties prior to 2010. A short section on methodology precedes a sketching out of five interconnected themes of: dehistoricised; localisation and individualisation; residualisation; work; and innovation and commodification. The article concludes with a brief summary of the official understanding of social justice and a look forward to its future use by the government.

If you don’t have access to the journal (I don’t…) and can’t access the paper, please get in touch and I’ll send you a pre-copy edited version.

Best wishes,


People, Place and Policy themed Issue: state intervention in family life

A themed edition of the open access, online journal People, Place and Policy, has just been published, examining state intervention in family life in the UK. The journal is edited and published by Sheffield Hallam University. There are four articles and an editorial in the journal, and while I won’t summarise all of them, as they’re easy enough to find, I’ll bring a couple to people’s attention.

Michael Lambert takes issue with Adam Perkins controversial (to put it politely) theory of a ‘welfare trait’ and re-examines historical evidence that Perkins draws on to conclusively undermine the theory and accuse Perkins of ‘recycling deprivation and reproducing depravation’. Sue Bond-Taylor has also written another compelling and nuanced theoretically informed account of the possibilities that intensive family support mechanisms can offer, if only they were freed from the ‘domestic surveillance’ shackles of the Troubled Families Programme and other neoliberal discourses. And I’ve got an article in there that examines how disadvantaged families interactions with the state have shifted ‘from the desk to the front room’ under austerity in the UK.

Best wishes,


The lady doth protest too much…

It’s a couple of weeks since the Troubled Families Programme hit the news again, thanks to the publication of the official evaluation and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquiry into the programme.  At the PAC hearing on 19 October, the three civil servants called to give evidence (Dame Louise Casey, Melanie Dawes, and Joe Tuke) attempted to provide a robust defence of the programme whilst simultaneously taking aim at the messenger, in the form of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) and Jonathan Portes, one of the foremost critics of the programme who was involved the evaluation, in its latter stages.

Casey attempted to blame the delay in publishing the report on NIESR. When it was put to her that the timing of the publication of the evaluation was suspicious (Q36 here), she replied

Indeed. Neither does it help people like me and others who believe we have nothing to hide and nothing to be worried about here. I would just say that what has been in the headlines for the last few days is the one element that we had problems with in the Department—I was not responsible for the Troubled Families programme at the time, but I am now fully aware of it—which is that when the draft report first came through, the organisation had put through data that was inaccurate and flawed.

Essentially, when they looked at the information—this is the analysts, not people like me or, indeed, Joe Tuke—they found things like they had put three local authorities’ flawed data through their system. They accepted it; the Department did not. They ended up having to go to the University of Cambridge to take this information to an entirely different person and say, “Is this okay? Is this not okay?”   

Casey namechecked Portes and NIESR and stated that ‘after a lot of correction and sorting out, I accept the findings of the research’ (Q52) but then went on to say

Sorry, I’ve got nothing to lose in a scenario like this. Lots of comment made by those closely involved with the evaluation, who have been leading on the press in the past few days, has been unedifying.

I don’t want to make it a personal thing because I accept that, within the strictures of this one piece of research, it doesn’t prove what I hoped it would prove. Q53

Still, at least no-one from NIESR  verbally abused government ministers and threatened to ‘deck’ anyone who contradicted their worldview. That would be really unedifying… Casey then, rather comically, and bringing images of pots and kettles to mind, accused them of misrepresenting their own research

I am disappointed that an individual seeks to undermine the programme in the way described—an individual who has had access to the programme through one of the six reports as part of the evaluation. If I am completely blunt and honest—I always am in this building—I actually feel that in the last couple of days, they have misrepresented their own research by not putting the caveats in the public domain or being very clear about what we cannot prove, of which this is part. Q127

NIESR have submitted further evidence to the PAC here, and Portes has also responded here, which offers up a different view of how the problems with the data occurred and how they were managed. It won’t surprise many readers to hear that I find their version more compelling than Casey’s, especially given Casey’s and the government’s contempt for academic research in relation to ‘troubled families’. And especially, as they did put the caveats in the public domain. But then, Casey herself has offered very positive views of the organisations involved in the research consortium on previous occasions. At an earlier PAC inquiry into the programme, when the National Audit Office had raised some concerns about the programme, Casey was confident that the scope of the evaluation and the quality of the research consortium would provide a comprehensive overview of the impact of the programme

We have let a huge, in my view, evaluation contract to a consortium called Icarus (sic). Within that, there will be a cost-benefit analysis done by—I can’t remember who they are, but they are terribly good at their job. There are other people, but we have got the best. We have MORI doing some stuff and whatever-they-are called doing the finances. (p41)

I think you are absolutely right. I am nervous about things like this, so I talk about what I think the programme is about, which is the children and the families, but I am also very hard-headed about the fact that the programme has to prove itself. It has to prove its worth, otherwise we need to find a different way to work with these families. (p41)

I hope that the evaluation will show us whether we are getting it right, and if we are not, where we can improve it. The thing to reassure the Committee about is that the evaluation goes far wider than the simplicity of the PBR, so it is looking at a much wider set of data. (p41)

When the evaluation was first commissioned in March 2013, DCLG issued a press release highlighting how the contract had been awarded to ‘a consortium of experienced, independent research groups’ and the then Secretary of State Eric Pickles said

it is important we learn the lessons of this work for the future and leave a legacy beyond the lifetime of this programme in 2015. This study will help do that by looking at what works most effectively with troubled families and how we best spend public money on turning them around.

So, before some of the independent organisations – and individuals – involved in the evaluation expressed some concerns about the worth of the programme, they were ‘terribly good at their job’ and ‘the best’, but when they offered their opinions, after the publication of the evaluation, they were accused of ‘misrepresenting their own research’ and being ‘unedifying’.

There are numerous other inconsistencies in the evidence provided by the witnesses, but it is soul destroying trying to document it fully. Below are a few examples, from the many that could have been chosen.

Casey:   We need to be clear: we know that 116,654 families basically had their lives changed by the programme according to the payment-by-results system. Q104

Casey:   Did we change the lives of 116,000 families? Yes, we did. Q146

No. The evaluation quite clearly states that any changes in the lives of 116,000 families can’t be attributed to the programme so it is simply incorrect to claim that ‘we’ [DCLG or other people involved in the programme] or ‘the programme’ changed their lives. The first page of the Executive Summary (p18) of the Impact Study states that ‘any changes (positive or negative) cannot be attributed to participation in the programme, because similar changes were observed for comparable non-participants.’ We also know from previous research that local authorities admitted that at least 8000 families were ‘turned around’ without ever being visited by a worker involved with the programme.

Casey:   No one disputes the fact that 116,000-plus families had problems and now have fewer problems. Nobody is disputing that; Q55

Yes, they are. People’s lives change. Just because, at some point in the last three or four years’ family has been claimed as being ‘turned around’ it does not mean that they still, ‘now’, have ‘fewer problems’, even if they did at the time. Problems could emerge at the same time, or immediately after a ‘turned around’ claim was made. In fact, problems could actually escalate, but as long as someone moved off out-of-work benefits they were deemed to be ‘turned around’ and, with ‘fewer problems’. But the research doesn’t tell us how any ‘turned around’ families are doing now.

Chair: You had a nearly 100% success rate.

Melanie Dawes: In fact, we have never said that Q67

In June 2015, DCLG issued a press release regarding the Prime Minister praising the success of the programme stating ‘In a speech in the north west on Monday he announced that the programme had succeeded in turning around 99% of the actual number of families targeted.That, to me, sounds like the Melanie Dawes’ department saying they had a ‘nearly 100% success rate’.

Casey:   I would just caution that in order to meet the criterion on education a child had to be in school for a full school year. Q112

Again, this is simply incorrect. Children leaving school could also help local authorities to meet the education criteria. DCLG issued guidance in October 2013 to local authorities who asked about children reaching school leaving age that stated

School leavers originally identified under the education criterion can still attract full results payments as long as all other relevant outcomes are achieved (ASB/ youth crime) and any other children in the household have achieved the required education outcomes. For the school leaver, the education measure becomes ‘neutral’ due to the child leaving school during the course of the programme.

Casey, and the other civil servants, basically protested too much and ended up, wittingly or unwittingly, lying to the Public Accounts Committee. As I said, there are many more examples similar to those given above.

I take no pleasure in highlighting how incompetent our democratic system is, where the only witnesses called to give evidence about a high-profile government policy targeting some of the most disadvantaged families in our society are those who are or were responsible for delivering it, or that those called then misled the inquiry. It is also unfortunate, in my opinion, that the focus has been on whether the programme works or not, and not on the insidious ideological assumptions underpinning the programme. It appears that it is perfectly acceptable to conflate families experiencing severe disadvantages, with criminal and anti-social families, as long as you are working towards ‘systems change’ and ‘cost savings’. But, in attempting to find a silver lining to this particular policy cloud, I have, thankfully, stumbled upon some common ground that I, and perhaps Jonathan Portes, may share with Dame Louise:

Casey:   In every single social policy job I have done, systemically, we fail multiple-need families Q87

On that, we can all agree…



New event: Troubled Families – Origins, evaluation and policy context


January 20th, 2017 11:00 AM   to   5:00 PM

About the event

The recent decision by the Public Accounts Committee to hold an inquiry into the Troubled Families programme will encourage more public debate about the controversial programme.

At Troubled Families: Origins, evaluation and policy context, Stephen Crossley, the author of The Troubled Families Programme: the perfect social policy?, one of the Centre’s most cited publications, will be joined by a range of experts in the field to take stock of the programme and discuss what the future holds.

A sandwich lunch will be provided.

Programme and speakers

The key themes of the day will include:

  1. The origins of the programme
  2. Analysis of the research used to justify the programme.
  3. The 2011 riots as the rationale for launch
  4. The official evaluation of the programme
  5. The state’s interaction with the family

Those who will be making a contribution to the day include:

Matthew Barnes (City University), Sue Bond-Taylor (University of Lincoln), Harriet Churchill (University of Sheffield), Stephen Crossley (Northumbria University), Ros Edwards (University of Southampton), Val Gillies (University of Westminster), Michael Lambert (Lancaster University), Kate Morris (University of Sheffield), Jonathan Portes (National Institute of Economic and Social Research).

Who might be interested in this event?

This event will be of interest to practitioners and policy-makers who have an interest in evidenced based policy making and social policy, health policy, family policy and criminal justice policy and practice.

Event fee

There is no fee for this event and all are welcome, regardless of income. We are encouraging voluntary donations from those who can afford it to cover the costs of the lunch and event organisation.

Venue, time and date

January 20th, 2017 11:00 AM   to   5:00 PM
Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
2 Langley Lane
London, SW8 1GB
United Kingdom

You can register for the event here

Public Accounts Committee – all written evidence

The Public Accounts Committee yesterday published all of the written evidence they received for their Inquiry into the Troubled Families.

This includes written evidence from me which I have just posted on this blog and which is also available in pdf format here.

Some of the evidence looks very ropy indeed and I’ll try and do a quick blog about them in the near future but for now, I thought I’d draw your attention to three of the more robust submissions. Yes, I am biased, and yes they are from others who are based or have been based  in academia, but they also happen to be the ones that are either most independent of the programme and/or draw most extensively on a wide range of research.

  • Michael Lambert, a fellow PhD student who I have worked and written, has submitted evidence relating to the history of concepts similar to ‘troubled families’
  • Professor David Gregg, who has written the most incisive critique of the Family Intervention Projects that pre-date the ‘TFP has submitted evidence here
  • A superb submission from Dr Matt Barnes (Department of Sociology, City University of London) and Andy Ross (Quant Social Research & Consultancy) examining the data behind the original figure of 120,000.

The PAC Inquiry into Troubled Families begins at 2:30pm on Wednesday 19th October. The three witnesses called to give evidence are all civil servants:

  • Louise Casey, Director General, Casey Review Team, Department for Communities and Local Government
  • Joe Tuke, Director, Troubled Failies and Public Service Reform, Department for Communities and Local Government
  • Melanie Dawes CB, Permanent Secretary, Department for Communities and Local Government


Best wishes,


Written evidence to the Public Accounts Committee Inquiry

Written evidence submitted to the Public Accounts Committee into the Troubled Families Programme

Stephen Crossley

Evidence submitted in an individual capacity


I am a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy in the department of Social Work and Communities at Northumbria University and a PhD student in the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University. I received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for my PhD studies to research the implementation of the Troubled Families Programme in different local authorities in England. I have interviewed workers, managers and directors in three different local authority areas and have also spoken to or had contact with approximately twenty local authority officers involved in delivering the programme in their different local areas. Prior to entering academia, I worked in various local government and voluntary sector roles in the North East of England.

My work has been published in peer-reviewed academic journals and a number of online magazines (a full bibliography is attached at the end of the submission) and I have also written a widely used report for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies[1]. My work has been used by BBC Newsnight[2], Channel 4, The Guardian[3],[4], The Telegraph[5], The Mail Online[6], The Economist[7], The Big Issue[8] and the House of Commons Library[9]. I have presented my work on ‘troubled families’ to national and international conferences, and to academics, policy-makers and practitioners. I have a blog[10] on the Troubled Families Programme which has been visited over 23,000 times by nearly 13,000 people in over 70 countries, and I have also agreed a contract with Policy Press to produce a book on the Troubled Families Programme.

Summary of submission

  • I have made a number of criticisms of the development and implementation of the Troubled Families Programme in other publications (see above and attached bibliography).
  • The points addressed here represent an attempt to draw the Committee’s attention to issues I believe may be of most interest to them, and which remain unresolved.
  • The points are covered in chronological order, which hopefully helps to highlight what I believe is the flawed nature of the programme, from its inception to the ‘suppressed’ evaluation.
  • It is my contention that at almost every stage of the programme, there is a body of evidence that contradicts or undermines the ‘official’ ‘troubled families’ success story that has been advanced by the government.

Blaming the 2011 riots on poor parenting

  1. Before any inquiry into the 2011 riots was even announced[11], the then Prime Minister David Cameron stated that it was poor parenting that was largely to blame, with one only having to ‘join the dots’[12] to understand why the rioting occurred. Other factors such as police racism, social exclusion, unemployment and poverty were immediately discounted. Subsequent research[13] with people involved in the riots suggested that structural issues played a big part in their decision to participate in the disturbances and, of course, not all of those involved in the riots were young people living at home with their parents.

Misuse of the research behind the 120,000 families

  1. The figure of 120,000 ‘troubled families’ comes from research carried out under the previous Labour Government[14], looking at families facing ‘multiple disadvantages’ such as poor maternal mental health, low income, deprivation, poor quality of overcrowded housing and no adults with qualifications in the household. It is now widely accepted that this research was then misused to provide evidence for 120,000 ‘troubled families’ characterised by crime, ASB, and truancy/school exclusion. This issue – along with other limitations of the original research – is covered by Professor Ruth Levitas in her 2012 report There may be trouble ahead: what we know about those 120,000 ‘troubled’ families[15].
  1. Another report, In the eye of the storm[16], published by three charities, critiques the original research and shows the number of families facing multiple disadvantages fluctuating over different years. This undermines the idea that this is a ‘hardcore’ of families that is resistant to attempts by the state to ‘change’ them and strongly suggests that structural factors play a significant role in determining the ‘troubles’ these families face.

Misrepresentation of the research supporting Family Intervention models

What we know works is this thing called family intervention and what it does is basically get into the actual family, in their front room and if actually the kids aren’t in school it gets in there and says to the parents I’m gonna show you and explain to you exactly how to get your kids up and out every single day and then I’m gonna make you do it … And that intense approach works, we know it works because we’ve already looked at studies that show that this works, basically, and also I’ve met countless families that have been turned around. (Louise Casey, 2 September 2013[17])

  1. The evidence supporting ‘family intervention’ as the best way of working with ‘troubled families’ has also been misrepresented. The most that can be taken from the official evaluations of Family Intervention Projects (FIPs) established under New Labour and widely recognised as the model on which the TFP is based is that some families appear to show some improvements in some areas of their lives at least whilst they are involved in the project, and according to their keyworker. The evidence also shows that FIPs are not very successful in getting people into work or in addressing health issues, which are two characteristics that affect lots of troubled families lives. The best known and most extensive critique of this evidence is from David Gregg, who called the evaluations of FIPs ‘policy based evidence’[18]. Gregg also highlights that many of the families worked with under FIPs were ‘vulnerable’ families, experiencing troubles, rather than being ‘troublesome’ families.

Ethical issues with regards to Listening to Troubled Families – dipstick information gathering

  1. Louise Casey’s influential report Listening to Troubled Families was criticised for not adhering to ethical standards by Nick Bailey, a researcher at Glasgow University[19]. This may appear to be an ‘academic’ critique but DCLG, stated that it didn’t meet the government standards for research and was, instead, simply ‘dipstick information gathering’. It is therefore unfortunate that the report was then published as an official government document, and accompanied by a press release[20] which generated widespread media coverage with Louise Casey giving numerous interviews on the back of a ‘dipstick information gathering’ process.

The phrase ‘turned around’

  1. When ‘troubled families’ live are officially ‘turned around’ under the TFP, a number of issues can still be present or ongoing in the house, under Phase 1. A family could be deemed ‘turned around’ even if, for example, members are still addicted to drugs or alcohol, excluded from school, involved in domestic violence, living in poor quality housing, committing crimes, experiencing poverty, etc. as long as a family member has moved off benefits. Parliament has been misled by former Secretary of State Eric Pickles over this[21]. It is also different to what Cameron said when he discussed the Payment by Results process at the launch of the TFP (emphasis added):

And crucially this payment depends on results. Simple tests such as… …are the children going to school? … how many people have they got back into work? …have they stopped – and I mean completely stopped – anti-social behaviour?[22]

7. I have offered an extensive critique of the phrase ‘turned around’ elsewhere[23]. My PhD research has also highlighted that local authorities often continue to work with families even after they have been claimed as a ‘success’, and despite there being no more funding available from central government for such work, because there are often still substantial unmet needs within the family.

‘Troubled families’ are not ‘neighbours from hell’

8.An interim report from the evaluation published in August 2014 highlighted the extent of the problems faced and caused by ‘troubled families’ entering the programme in its early stages. This data was misrepresented and misused to provide evidence for the existence of a further 400,000 ‘troubled families’ (and despite local authorities struggling to find the original 120,000). Anecdotes about individual families were presented to the media, resulting in a number of front page stories (Sunday Times and Daily Express) about the programme. When the data is actually examined however, it shows that most families were not involved in crime and ASB or were involved at very low levels[24]. Most families had children in school at least some of the time and most ‘problems’ were associated with a minority of families. As a further example, from the data collected, families were more likely to have an adult suffering from mental health problems than they were to have any of the following problems: any form of child protection/safeguarding issue; domestic violence; alcohol or substance addictions; at risk of eviction; in rent arrears; or children permanently excluded from school. The only characteristics shared by a majority of ‘troubled families’ appear to be that they were white, they lived in social housing, they had an adult on out of work benefits (usually as a result of health/disability/caring reasons, not unemployment) and there was a family member or members with health issues of some description.

 Local authorities are not entirely supportive of the programme

  1. Almost all local authorities call their local ‘troubled families’ by another name such as ‘stronger families’ ‘family focus’ etc. because they believe the term ‘troubled families’ is unhelpful and stigmatising. Similarly, most workers do not tell families they have been identified as ‘troubled families’ and sometimes tell them that they are ‘eligible for extra help under a new programme’ or something similar. This might not appear to be significant, but it does undermine the narrative that the programme has been widely supported across the country[25]. My PhD research suggests that the reception to the programme has been ambiguous and many practitioners are not whole-heartedly supportive of a programme that they feel sets out to blame families for living in poverty. Local authorities and practitioners effectively have to ‘tiptoe around’, and attempt to quietly subvert, a high-profile central government social policy, one that has reputedly been almost 100% successful and is now in an expanded second phase[26],[27]. It is also problematic that the relationships between local government officers and largely vulnerable and impoverished (as opposed to ‘troublesome’ families) have developed into ones that are not entirely open and transparent.

Data matching exercises to demonstrate 100% success rates

  1. An FOI request from The Guardian[28] showed that at least 8000 families that had been claimed as being ‘turned around’ had never had any form of ‘family intervention’ under the programme – they were families that once met the criteria of a ‘troubled family’ but then, at a later date, didn’t. A lot of this will have been about people finding work themselves and/or children either attending school more often (maybe their teacher changed or other factors improved) or reaching school leaving age and crime/ASB reducing, possibly as a result of other interventions. This practice was widespread under Phase 1 but is no longer possible under Phase 2 of the programme as there are new ‘principles’ that families have to be worked with in a specific way to be eligible for payments under the programme.

100% ‘turned around’ figures – pressure applied to local authorities

  1. The government published figures which suggested that local authorities had worked with exactly the number of troubled families that had been identified by the government at the launch of the programme and had, in most local authorities, turned every single one of them around – around 90% of local authorities claimed to have 100% success rates. This is obviously unbelievable. Many of my research participants talked of referring some families they worked with to children’s services and statutory social care departments because of concerns about the welfare of children. This outcome shouldn’t be considered as a success, but nor does it feature in the published government progress reports.
  1. A year before the end of the first phase of the programme, the government introduced ‘eligibility thresholds’[29] for participation in the second phase of the programme. All local authorities had to therefore reassure the government that they would turn around 100% of their ‘troubled families’ in order to be eligible for the second phase of the programme. Those that didn’t were effectively threatened with being named and shamed and also with the withdrawal of ‘troubled families’ funding from their authority.
  1. Officers in a number local authorities I have been in contact with have told me about pressure applied to them to provide faster ‘turnaround’ of families. Some have described this as ‘bullying’ and ‘threatening’ phone-calls from civil servants in DCLG and others have talked about officials speaking directly to chief executives of local authorities to demand better progress. In some instances, according to people I have spoken to, local authorities have been told that their progress was not good enough and they need to claim for more ‘turned around’ families – pressure effectively being applied to submit false claims in order to demonstrate the ‘success of the scheme’.

Fast policy, slow evaluation: suppression of the evaluation report

14The publication of the evaluation is the only aspect of the programme that has been delayed or carried out slowly. The programme has otherwise been implemented and expanded at a relentless pace. By way of example, the ‘massive expansion’[30] of the programme was announced when just 1% of the original 120,000 ‘troubled families’ had been ‘turned around’ by local authorities[31]. The figure of 400,000 new ‘troubled families’ was merely ‘an estimate’[32] when it was formally announced by the government, because the ‘policy formulation process’ had not been concluded at the time the expansion of the announcement. This rush to promote ‘positive’ stories associated with the ‘success’ of the programme stands in marked contrast to the delays associated with the publication of the evaluation.


Select Bibliography

Peer-reviewed articles and book chapters

Lambert, M. and Crossley, S. (2016) ‘Getting with the (troubled families) programme’: a review, Social Policy and Society, Available at https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/social-policy-and-society/article/getting-with-the-troubled-families-programme-a-review/255BB8F01117D2E8B1319C7B7E39E598

Crossley, S. (2016) ‘Realising the (troubled) family’, ‘crafting the neoliberal state’, Families, Relationships and Societies, 5, 2, 263-279 Available at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tpp/frs/2016/00000005/00000002/art00006

Crossley, S. (2016) The Troubled Families Programme: in, for and against the state? In M. Fenger, J. Hudson & C. Needham (eds) Social Policy Review 28: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, Bristol: Policy Press, pp 127-146

Crossley, S. (2016) Featured graphic. The ‘troubled families’ numbers game, Environment and Planning A 48, 1, pp4-6 Available at http://epn.sagepub.com/content/48/1/4.short?rss=1&ssource=mfr

 Reports and online publications

Crossley, S. (2015) The Troubled Families Programme: the perfect social policy? Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, Briefing 13 Available at http://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/sites/crimeandjustice.org.uk/files/The%20Troubled%20Families%20Programme%2C%20Nov%202015.pdf

Crossley, S. (2014) “Joining the dots”? The role of research in the ‘troubled families’ agenda, Discover Society, 9, [online] Available at http://www.discoversociety.org/2014/06/03/joining-the-dots-the-role-of-research-in-the-troubled-families-agenda/

[1] https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/sites/crimeandjustice.org.uk/files/The%20Troubled%20Families%20Programme,%20Nov%202015.pdf

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37010486

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/11/troubled-family-programme-government-success-council-figures

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jun/22/troubled-families-scheme-outcomes-miraculous-success-or-pure-fiction

[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/08/ministers-accused-of-suppressing-report-which-found-troubled-fam/

[6] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3730503/Cameron-s-1b-help-problem-families-flop-Flagship-scheme-failed-cut-crime-benefit-dependency-despite-huge-bill.html

[7] http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21688873-controversial-government-programme-trying-help-poorest-families-there-may-be-trouble

[8] http://www.bigissue.com/features/6919/the-trouble-with-troubled-families

[9] http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7585#fullreport

[10] https://akindoftrouble.wordpress.com/

[11] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/aug/16/downing-street-riot-inquiry

[12] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-speech-on-the-fightback-after-the-riots

[13] http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/46297/1/Reading%20the%20riots(published).pdf

[14] http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100416132449/http:/www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/cabinetoffice/social_exclusion_task_force/assets/families_at%20_risk/risk_data.pdf

[15] http://www.poverty.ac.uk/system/files/WP%20Policy%20Response%20No.3-%20%20’Trouble’%20ahead%20(Levitas%20Final%2021April2012).pdf

[16] https://www.actionforchildren.org.uk/media/3212/in_the_eye_of_the_storm.pdf

[17] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-23896776

[18] https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/publications/family-intervention-projects-classic-case-policy-based-evidence

[19] http://www.poverty.ac.uk/news-and-views/articles/policy-built-unethical-research

[20] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/report-highlights-chaos-of-troubled-families-lives

[21] https://akindoftrouble.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/the-short-answer-is-in-fact-yes/

[22] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/troubled-families-speech

[23] https://akindoftrouble.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/what-does-turning-around-a-troubled-family-really-mean/

[24] https://akindoftrouble.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/misunderstanding-troubled-families-working-paper-v2.pdf


[26] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/11/troubled-family-programme-government-success-council-figures#comments

[27] https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/resources/frontline-worker-troubled-families-fraudulent-scam

[28] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/11/troubled-family-programme-government-success-council-figures

[29] https://akindoftrouble.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/response-all-information-to-be-supplied.pdf

[30] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/massive-expansion-of-troubled-families-programme-announced

[31] http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/expansion-without-evaluation-the-troubled-families-programme-is-fast-policy-in-action/

[32] https://akindoftrouble.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/400000-high-risk-families-policy-making-by-estimate/

‘Troubled families’ Themed Section of Social Policy and Society

A themed section of the journal Social Policy and Society, examining the Troubled Families Programme is being published online in the coming weeks.

Three of the articles (by John Welshman, Andrew Sayer, and Michael Lambert and myself) have been published already – https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/social-policy-and-society/firstview – and four more (from John Macnicol, Alex Nunn and Daniela Tepe-Belfrage, Sue Bond-Taylor, and Aniela Wenham) will be published in the coming weeks.

Best wishes,