£8 billion spent reacting to ‘troubled families’

£8 billion will be spent on reacting to the problems of 'troubled families' in England over the five years to 2015, rather than addressing them proactively, according to an analysis from the Department for Communities and Local Government. The analysis is used to justify the coalition's decision (in December 2011) to spend a further £448 million on its Troubles Families programme.

Key points

  • The government will spend an estimated £9 billion a year on 120,000 troubled families over the Spending Review period (2010–2015), with only £1 billion of this going on targeted interventions intended to improve outcomes – in other words, it is spending eight times more reacting to problems than on targeted interventions to turn around families' lives.
  • Reactive spending is defined as money spent 'reacting to the problems these families caused' (our emphasis) – for example, criminal justice costs associated with serious crime, dealing with excluded pupils, taking children into care, healthcare costs of alcohol misuse, social security benefits, and accident and emergency costs.
  • Proactive spending is defined as including early intervention programmes such as Sure Start, programmes addressing child protection (such as intensive family interventions), mental health programmes and the Work Programme.
  • Only fiscal costs to central government and local public bodies are taken into account. Social or wider economic costs are excluded, though the DCLG report says they are likely to be considerable in their own right.
  • The report adds that new independent national evaluation of the Troubled Families programme will begin shortly. This will include an economic evaluation looking at its wider economic and social costs and benefits.

The notion of a class of 120,000 'troubled families' has been criticised as 'deeply flawed' – see article by Professor Ruth Levitas on this website.

SourceThe Fiscal Case for Working with Troubled Families: Analysis and Evidence on the Costs of Troubled Families to Government, Department for Communities and Local Government
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Comment: 
As this equates to £85 million per family per year, if true (which I highly doubt), why not just bung each family a few million to relocate abroad, thereby making a massive saving/