Troubled Families Timeline

This page is a first attempt to chart the history of the current idea of the 120,000 ‘troubled’ or ‘problem’ families. If I have missed any key dates or publications out, please let me know….


Cabinet Office Report – Families at Risk: Background to families with multiple disadvantages

“(evidence) shows that around 2% of families with children in Britain experience five or more disadvantages. In 2004, this represented around 140,000 families. The proportion of families experiencing five or more problems has remained relatively consistent since 2001.”


14th July Gordon Brown (then PM)

Government will target 110,000 ‘problem families’


September 28th Gordon Brown

50,000 most chaotic families Labour Party Conference Speech


April Labour Manifesto

“Intervene earlier to prevent crime, with no-nonsense action to tackle the problems caused by  50,000 dysfunctional families.”

Conservative Manifesto

“We will take steps to reduce the causes of crime, like poverty and broken families.” – no number specified and little in document about ‘dysfunctional’ families

December 10th David Cameron

Speech on families and relationships

“For years we’ve known that a relatively small number of troubled families are responsible for a large proportion of the problems in our society.”

“I set this ambition: by the end of this Parliament, I want us to try and turn around every troubled family in the country.”



Emma Harrison presentation to Nordic Baltic Summit – “Working Families Everywhere”

“125,000 Troubled Families in the UK with no work and very expensive problems.”


Government child poverty strategy

“It has been estimated that there are around 120,000 families in England with multiple problems. Turning round the lives of these families is a core element of our strategy.”

August 6th – 10thRiots in towns across England

August 15th David Cameron

Speech on the fight-back after the riots

“Now that the riots have happened I will make sure that we clear away the red tape and the bureaucratic wrangling, and put rocket boosters under this programme, with a clear ambition that within the lifetime of this Parliament we will turn around the lives of the 120,000 most troubled families in the country.”

October 5th David Cameron

Leadership for a better Britain – Conservative Party Conference

“And for the 120,000 families that are most troubled – and causing the most trouble – a commitment to turn their lives around by the end of this Parliament.”

October 17th Eric Pickles

Action on Problem Families speech

From this point forwards, government announcements regarding the Troubled Families Programme can be found on the ‘Helping Troubled Families turn their lives round’ section of the DCLG website

I will add and update the timeline shortly with information relating to other publications and dates linked to the ‘troubled families’ agenda, including critiques of it.

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