High risk families and the ‘amplification of deviance’

On Friday of last week, I presented a paper at a seminar in Cardiff looking at ‘Moral Panics and the State’ which explored the ‘massive expansion’ of the Troubled Families Programme to include 400,000 ‘high-risk’ families.

My presentation, which is available by clicking here or on the image below, used a ‘deviance amplification’ framework proposed by Stan Cohen to explore the expansion. Cohen argued that as well as a traditional deviance amplification framework advocated by Lemert and Wilkins (deviance leading to social control, leading to more deviance, leading to more social control etc) there was a process of amplification within the reaction/control phase itself. He identified a number of parasitic elements of this amplification including sensitization, escalation, dramatization, innovation and exploitation.


I try and argue that each of these elements can be found in the documents and announcements relating to the expansion of the TFP, with  a particular interest in the roles played by the ‘moral entrepreneurs’ Eric Pickles and Louise Casey. I am becoming increasingly interested in the ideological exploitation of the Troubled Families Programme and I find it fascinating that the expansion was predicted by Louise Casey a full 12 months before it was officially announced and before any evaluation of the TFP had even been commissioned (this happened in March 2013). On page 64 of the Listening to Troubled Families report that she produced in July 2012, she wrote:

The next part of the challenge will be to understand more about how the success with families is achieved, and then to seek to widen this approach to a far larger group of families across the country; to reshape, redesign and refocus services.

The day itself was excellent (all of the abstracts can be found here) and there are plans for a fourth seminar in the series to be held some time early in 2014. It is worth checking out the website of the seminar series for further details.

Best wishes,