A troubling account of how the much vaunted ‘Troubled Families’ programme cooks the books. To be honest we’ve lost track of whether any or how many youth organisations were tempted to contribute to this major behavioural programme based on payment-by-results. Back at the start of the initiative there were signs that youth organisations were looking to be involved. We hope that folk steered clear. As with almost all outcomes-based initiatives evidence of success starts to be rigged. In such a climate what price ethics?
There is no qualitative evidence that the Troubled Families programme is actually responsible for ‘turning around’ the families it comes into contact with. It is claimed that many of the positive outcomes are a result of pre-existing Multi-Agency Partnerships.
This is made all the more troubling because many families are assessed based on information which is between one to four years old. Most have therefore resolved their issues with the help of other organisations or through their own accord. In this case, those involved in the Troubled Families management simply ‘map’ this progress, despite the fact that these outcomes cannot be attributed to the work done by the programme itself.
Much of the basis for the ‘independent evaluation’ of the Troubled Families programme is on cases which are deemed to be high risk. This means they will be dealt with by a ‘flagship’ Troubled Families team, which has a smaller case load and subsequently is able to meet with the family a number of times a week. This practice is therefore financially unsustainable if applied to the programme at large, and yet it is used as the basis for evaluation of the entire programme.
The programme is also used as a means to bridge the hole created by cuts in local government funding. Refusal to engage in this programme is therefore not accepted by Troubled Families process managers, who encourage staff to use ‘creative’ tactics to make up the numbers. This has led to disadvantaged families being coerced into joining the programme through intimidating and potentially harmful ‘hard sells’.
The Troubled Families programme has used established referral processes in order to continue the expansion of the policy. This means that staff may have cases suddenly re-classified as a Troubled Families case, or be forced to nominate cases against their better judgement and ethics.
Also see the report, The Troubled Families Programme: the perfect social policy? written by Stephen Crossley of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.
No social policy can expect to achieve a 100 per cent success rate and yet,
according to government, the Troubled Families Programme has achieved
almost exactly that. The programme has apparently turned around the lives of
some of the most disadvantaged and excluded families in a remarkably short
period of time. All of this has occurred against a backdrop of cuts to local
services and welfare reforms which have hit, not just families, but also the
organisations and councils that deliver services to them. This briefing paper
traces the history of the programme and questions claims of success made by
government and their problematic use of data. Quite simply, the reported
successes of the Troubled Families Programme are too good to be true and
require closer public and political scrutiny than they have received to date.
Thanks to Terry Murphy [SWAN] for the link.