Troubled families schemes ‘underperforming’

Two government programmes aimed at helping families with multiple problems will miss their targets unless improvements are made, according to a report from the National Audit Office.

One programme, Troubled Families, was introduced by the DCLG to ‘turn around’ in three years the lives of 120,000 families identified as facing multiple challenges. A second, Families with Multiple Problems, is designed by the DWP to move 22 per cent of people in families with multiple problems towards employment within three years.

Key findings

  • Both programmes are 'innovative' and seek to address multiple challenges by joining up the work of local service providers. The rationale for the programmes is also strong in terms of potential cost savings to the public purse.
  • There is a risk, however, that the expectations for the programmes will not be achieved. Evidence from programmes similar to that of the DCLG suggests that local authorities will need to invest further to meet its target. And there is 'limited evidence' for the DWP’s expectations that its programme will lead to work for over a fifth of participants.
  • Local authorities in England have, on the DCLG definition, turned around 22,000 families to date, exceeding its own target by three per cent. But local authorities have attached only 62,000 families to the programme, 13 per cent below the number of families that the NAO says might reasonably have been expected.
  • Referrals to the DWP scheme have been low. Despite opening new referral routes up, the programme is operating with only 26 per cent of its expected volume of attachments. The programme has achieved only 720 employment outcomes, just four per cent of its target; and no provider met the Department’s target for this measure.
  • The two departments do not work together enough when designing and implementing their programmes, and there is considerable overlap. Both departments could have done more to understand the risks of payments-by-results schemes, and neither is likely to achieve all the potential benefits of using them. Performance varies significantly between the best and worst performing local authorities, and between the best and worst performing contractors.

SourceProgrammes to Help Families Facing Multiple Challenges, HC 878 (Session 2013-14), National Audit Office, TSO
LinksReport | NAO press release | Action for Children press release | BBC report | Public Finance report

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Publication date: 
Dec 3 2013