Just Sociology

Tackling Troubled Families: Controversies and Criticisms of the UK’s Social Intervention Programme

The

Troubled Families Programme (TFP) was introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2011, as a response to the perceived crisis of criminality and underclass culture in deprived communities across the United Kingdom. The policy was based on the New Right social policy agenda, which framed poverty and inequality as a result of moral degeneracy and dysfunctional individual behaviour, rather than structural economic or political factors.

The TFP consisted of two phases, each targeting a distinct cohort of families deemed to be problematic or at risk of criminality. The programme also relied on local authority workers and social intervention agencies to identify and engage with families, and to provide them with intensive support and supervision.

While the TFP received significant funding and political support from the government, it has also been criticised for its criteria, evaluation, and impact on vulnerable families.

Overview and History

The

Troubled Families Programme has its roots in the Conservative government’s “Respect agenda”, which sought to address the perceived culture of anti-social behaviour and criminality among underclass families. The TFP was launched in 2011, as part of Phase 1 of the policy, with the aim of working with 120,000 families who had been identified as having multiple problems, such as unemployment, drug addiction, educational failure, and involvement in crime.

The programme relied on payment by results, with local authorities being paid for each family they successfully turned around. Phase 2 of the TFP, launched in 2015, aimed to expand the programme to reach 400,000 more families, with an emphasis on delivering sustained change for the families involved.

The TFP was widely seen as a controversial policy, with critics arguing that it stigmatised and criminalised already vulnerable families.

Definition and Criteria

The

Troubled Families Programme uses a four-criteria system to identify families who are deemed to be at risk of criminality or anti-social behaviour. These criteria include: multiple problems such as poor health, poor education outcomes, and poor housing conditions; a history of offending or anti-social behaviour; involvement in youth crime or being at risk of serious youth crime; and children not in school or regularly truanting.

The TFP also uses six turnaround criteria to evaluate the success of the programme, including: sustained employment for adults; reduced anti-social behaviour or offending; improved school attendance; and reduced use of alcohol or drugs. While the government claims a 99% success rate for the programme, sceptics point out that the criteria are vague and difficult to measure, and that there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the programme’s evaluation process.

Evaluation and Criticisms

The

Troubled Families Programme has been evaluated by a range of agencies, including the government, local authorities, and independent think tanks. While the government claims that the programme has had a significant impact on reducing crime and improving outcomes for families, critics are sceptical of these claims.

One prominent criticism of the TFP is that it relies on a narrow, stigmatising definition of “troubled families”, which ignores the complex and multifaceted nature of family problems. Another criticism is that the quality of social intervention provided by the programme varies widely, with some families receiving little or no support or supervision, while others are subject to heavy-handed monitoring and control.

Finally, critics point out that there is little reliable data on the success of the TFP, as evaluation reports are often incomplete or based on incomplete data sets.

Demonization of the Underclass

The government’s response to the English riots of 2011 was based on a narrative of criminality and underclass culture, which linked poverty, racial inequality, and injustice to individual moral degeneracy and anti-social behaviour. This narrative was often used to justify harsh measures against the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, including cutting welfare benefits, criminalising anti-social behaviour, and increasing surveillance and policing of marginalised communities.

Critics of this approach argue that it is based on a flawed and simplistic understanding of the social and economic factors that contribute to poverty and inequality.

Troubled Families Programme

The

Troubled Families Programme was one of the policy responses to the English riots, based on the idea that family breakdown and moral degeneracy were major factors in the unrest. The TFP sought to address these issues by providing intensive family intervention and support, as well as encouraging families to take responsibility for their own behaviour and actions.

The programme was heavily criticised by some commentators for its narrow and stigmatising definition of troubled families, and for its lack of transparency and accountability. Others praised the programme for its innovative approach to tackling complex social problems, and for its positive impact on the families involved.

Conclusion:

The

Troubled Families Programme and the government response to the English riots are complex and controversial topics, which have generated significant debate and analysis in both academic and political circles. While the TFP has been praised for its innovative approach to tackling complex social problems, it has also been criticised for its narrow and stigmatising definition of “troubled families”, as well as for its lack of transparency and accountability.

Similarly, the government’s response to the English riots has been lauded by some for its tough stance on criminality and anti-social behaviour, while others have argued that it demonises the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Ultimately, these issues highlight the challenges of balancing social intervention and control, and the need for a nuanced and informed understanding of the complex social and economic factors that contribute to poverty and inequality.

Expansion:

Payment by Results

The

Troubled Families Programme (TFP) is a payment-by-results scheme where local authorities receive funding for each family they turn around. In Phase 1, local authorities were paid an attachment fee of 4,000 for each TFP family they identified, alongside a 1,200 payment for each family that was “turned around”.

The attachment fee covers the local authority’s costs of identifying and engaging with TFP families, while the outcome payment is intended to reward local authorities for achieving long-term positive outcomes. However, this payment-by-results model has faced criticism from some, who argue that it can create a perverse incentive for local authorities to focus on quick fixes rather than sustainable change.

Furthermore, the attachment fee has been criticised for incentivising local authorities to identify as many families as possible in order to maximise their income.

Success Criteria

The TFP uses a set of six turnaround criteria to evaluate the success of its interventions. These are: sustained employment for adults in the household for at least three months; reduced anti-social behaviour or offending by any household member in the family; improvement in school attendance and behaviour for children in the family; reduced children’s involvement in youth crime or at risk of involvement; ensuring that none of the adult members of the household are claiming out-of-work benefits; and continuous employment for at least six months.

While these criteria provide a clear set of benchmarks for measuring the programme’s impact, critics have argued that they are too narrow and do not take into account other important factors such as the quality of the work undertaken with families, domestic violence, mental health, poverty, and material deprivation.

Lack of Data

One of the main criticisms of the TFP is the lack of reliable data on its impact and effectiveness. While the government claims a 99% success rate for the programme, independent think tanks such as the Centre for Crime and Justice have disputed this figure, citing a lack of transparency and independent evaluation.

The TFP has been accused of failing to collect and analyse data on the quality of work undertaken with TFP families, and of relying too heavily on self-reporting by local authorities. Moreover, the TFP has been criticised for ignoring key issues such as domestic violence, mental health, and poverty, which can significantly impact the outcomes for TFP families.

Critics argue that a lack of data makes it impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme, and calls into question the government’s claims about its success.

Definition

The definition of “troubled families” used by the TFP has been widely criticised for being too narrow and stigmatising. In Phase 1 of the programme, a family was defined as “troubled” if it met any three of the following four criteria: no adult in the household is in work; the family lives in poor housing; the family has no parent in the home; the children in the family are truanting.

However, in Phase 2, the TFP expanded its definition to incorporate six criteria, which include: involvement in youth crime or at risk of serious youth crime; children who have been excluded from school or are at risk of exclusion; adults out of work or at risk of financial exclusion and financial hardship; and housing issues such as poor conditions and homelessness.

Overview of Troubled Families

The characteristics of “troubled families” identified by the TFP can be broadly categorised as relating to drugs, alcohol, crime, irresponsibility, and generations. Around 40% of TFP families have a history of drug or alcohol dependency, while over 70% have at least one family member with a criminal record.

Family members are often described as being “irresponsible” or “difficult to manage”, and may have a history of being involved in anti-social behaviour. Approximately 30% of TFP families are described as having “generational issues”, with at least one parent having grown up in a family that was involved in the criminal justice system.

However, it is important to note that not all of these characteristics are shared by every TFP family, and that by categorising families in this way, the programme risks stigmatising and pathologising some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Additionally, it is worth noting that 85% of TFP families have no adults with a criminal offence, and 97% have only one or no children with a criminal offence, dispelling some of the myths that were circulated about the programme.

Conclusion:

The implementation and characteristics of the

Troubled Families Programme continue to generate significant debate and analysis. While the programme has been praised for its innovative approach to tackling complex social problems, it has also been criticised for its narrow and stigmatising definition of “troubled families”, as well as for its lack of transparency and accountability.

The payment-by-results model, while incentivising authorities to engage in successful interventions, has been criticised for incentivising them to cut corners out of concern for achieving the “quick win”. Additionally, while the six criteria used to evaluate the programme’s success provide a clear set of parameters, the TFP has been accused of overlooking key issues such as mental health, poverty, and domestic violence.

Expansion:

Scepticism

Despite the government’s claims that the

Troubled Families Programme (TFP) has a 99% success rate, there has been considerable scepticism about the programme’s effectiveness. Independent think tanks such as the Centre for Crime and Justice have been highly critical of the TFP, citing a lack of transparency, independent evaluation, and data.

Moreover, recent government cuts to funding for the TFP and the community intervention programme, which was meant to complement the TFP in tackling more complex issues, have further fuelled scepticism about the programme’s goals and implementation. Some critics argue that the TFP merely serves as a cost-cutting measure for local authorities, by reducing demand on other public services such as social care and education.

Lack of Data

A key criticism of the TFP is the lack of reliable data on its impact and effectiveness. The government has come under fire for failing to collect and analyse data on the quality of work undertaken with TFP families, and for relying on self-reporting by local authorities.

Critics have also accused the programme of ignoring key issues such as domestic violence, mental health, poverty, and material deprivation, which can significantly impact family dynamics and outcomes. Moreover, the TFP has been criticised for not soliciting feedback from the families themselves on the quality of intervention or the motivations for accepting or rejecting support.

This has led to concerns that the programme may further stigmatise, pathologise, and marginalise already vulnerable families. One of the main issues with the lack of data is that the programme is designed to intervene in complex and wide-ranging problems.

As such, the quality and effectiveness of the intervention can have significant impacts on family dynamics, behaviour, and outcomes. Without reliable and comprehensive data, it is impossible to gauge the effectiveness of individual interventions, or to determine what works best for which particular families.

Similarly, without feedback from the families themselves, it is difficult to discern whether the intervention was helpful, intrusive, or ineffective, thereby adding to the risk of stigmatisation and marginalisation.

The lack of data is further exacerbated by the fact that the TFP is a payment-by-results programme.

While the payment-by-results scheme may incentivise authorities to intervene and invest in families, it is not clear how successful interventions must be or what outcomes authorities should prioritise. Families may be provided with quick, superficial interventions rather than more comprehensive support or ongoing support, which would be more time-consuming and resource-intensive.

Conclusion:

The

Troubled Families Programme has sparked a great deal of debate about the effectiveness of social interventions, the role of the state in addressing social problems, and the stigma and marginalisation experienced by some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Despite the government’s claims about the success of the TFP, there has been considerable scepticism and criticism about the programme’s implementation, criteria, impact, and lack of transparency.

Critics argue that the narrow, stigmatising definition of “troubled families”, coupled with the lack of data, feedback, and accountability, risk exacerbating issues related to poverty, marginalisation and mental health. Furthermore, the lack of data and transparency regarding the funding cuts highlights broader difficulties in evaluating and addressing complex social problems, and underscores the importance of ongoing scrutiny, critical reflection, and engaged activism.

Ultimately, the TFP highlights both the possibilities and limitations of government intervention in addressing social inequality, and the importance of engaging with the voices and perspectives of those who are most affected by social policy. In conclusion, the

Troubled Families Programme has been subject to significant criticism regarding its narrow definition of “troubled families”, lack of transparency and accountability, and questionable effectiveness.

Moreover, the lack of data, feedback, and resources has hindered progress, making it difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the TFP in addressing complex social problems. Despite this, the introduction of the TFP has also provided new opportunities for social intervention and support for some of the poorest and most vulnerable families in the UK, and has opened up new avenues for critical reflection and dialogue.

The policy has highlighted the need for nuanced and comprehensive approaches to social policy and programme evaluation, and reemphasized the value of listening to the voices of those most affected by social inequality. FAQs:

1) What is the

Troubled Families Programme?

The

Troubled Families Programme (TFP) is a UK government initiative designed to provide intensive support and intervention to families experiencing multiple problems.

2) What criteria does the TFP use to define “troubled families”?

The TFP uses a range of criteria to identify troubled families, which currently include involvement in youth crime, children who have been excluded from school, adults out of work or on the verge of exclusion, housing issues, and a history of anti-social behaviour.

3) What are some criticisms of the TFP?

Critics point to issues of narrow definitions of troubled families, and a lack of accountability and transparency in terms of both evaluation and funding. There is also scepticism about the effectiveness of the policy, given the lack of reliable data on its impact.

4) How does the TFP incentivize local authorities? The TFP uses a payment-by-results model, where local authorities receive funding for each family that they turn around.

5) What other factors could impact the success of TFP interventions?

The TFP has been criticised for not addressing

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