UK Politics

Eric Pickles: 105,000 troubled families' lives turned round

Eric Pickles

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles says 105,000 troubled families targeted by a government scheme have had their lives "turned around".

Mr Pickles told the House of Commons the Troubled Families Programme had targeted 120,000 families since 2010.

He said an extra £200m would be provided to extend the scheme to 400,000 more families between 2015-20.

Labour said it supported the "important work" of the programme and wanted it to go from "strength to strength".

Shadow communities and local government secretary Hilary Benn said the party would continue the work of the scheme if it wins the general election in May.

The Troubled Families Programme pays councils to work directly with a family to deal with their varied problems, including worklessness and truancy, rather than lots of different agencies working with each aspect of the families' troubles.

'Tough love'

The aims were to cut anti-social behaviour, ensure truanting children were back in school and getting parents back into jobs, Mr Pickles said.

Updating MPs on the work of the programme, he said: "Today, with great pride, I can announced to the House that 90% of the families we've promised to help have achieved these outcomes.

"More than 105,000 have had their lives turned around and there is still three months of the programme left to run."

What is the Troubled Families Programme?

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  • It was set up by David Cameron after the 2011 riots in England with the aim of helping 120,000 troubled families by 2015
  • The scheme is designed to transform the lives of families with multiple and complex problems
  • Troubled families are defined as meeting certain criteria, including under 18s involved in crime or anti-social behaviour, poor school attendance and an adult on benefits
  • Where families meet two of the criteria they are "a cause for concern", councils can rule that other factors - including health problems - make them eligible
  • The government says these families cost the public purse about £9bn a year
  • It has invested £448m in the programme since 2011, with a further £200m available for 2015-20
  • Local authorities are paid up to £4,000 on a payment-by-results basis for turning around the hardest-to-help families
  • In seven English areas - Bristol, Derbyshire, Manchester, Redcar & Cleveland, Salford, Staffordshire and the London Borough of Wandsworth - the average cost saving to the public purse per family amounts to £11,200 per family
  • For every £1 spent on the programme, £2.20 in gross benefits was realised in Manchester, £1.94 in Redcar & Cleveland, £1.96 in Wandsworth, and £1.80 in Bristol.

He said the scheme had made a "real difference" to people's lives, and worked for taxpayers as well as the families involved.

"It's tough love and practical help from people who take a no-nonsense, persistent approach, for people who won't go away, give up, who won't be put off by missed answers or unanswered doors," he told MPs.

'More caring'

Mr Pickles praised front-line workers for their "tireless" efforts and congratulated the families who "grasped the opportunity to end a dysfunctional and negative way of life and offer their children a better future".

He said the programme showed what could be achieved with co-operation between central and local government, and their partner public services.

Responding to the statement, Mr Benn said: "We support... this important work and, as you have generously acknowledged, the last Labour government started the family intervention project and a future Labour government would want to see this work continue and go from strength to strength."

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Image caption Mr Pickles said a typical troubled family had nine different problems to contend with

He noted that Labour and some local authorities had pushed for the scheme's remit to be broadened, and welcomed the fact that the government made the necessary changes.

But Mr Benn raised concerns about the impact of cuts to local authority budget cuts in the most deprived communities and housing benefit changes.

Mr Pickles told him that before the troubled families programme was set up "we were throwing money at this problem and it was achieving precisely nothing".

He said of the scheme: "It so happens it is cheaper but it's actually better. It's more caring, we're not throwing people away. We're not condemning them to a life on benefits."

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