A frontline social worker involved with The Troubled Families Programme has branded the project a scam, which has dishonestly based its success off the back of other agencies’ hard work and coerces families to engage, providing a constant revenue stream that benefits local government.

We are not surprised by this development. Back in 2012 we expressed our concern, along with others, about the criteria being used to ‘detect’ or label Troubled Families. We didn’t, and don’t, care much for the term itself either, but what was so astonishing was that the government was prepared to identify families in distress using what can only be described as irrational criteria. In its initial phase, social work professionals would need to ‘tick off’ at least five of the seven criteria present. In 2016, this checklist appears to have shrunk (the whistleblowing social worker in the piece above tells us that there are now six elements to the check list, and only two elements now need to be identified before you’re officially In Trouble).

The social worker makes several observations about the Programme:

  • There appears to be no qualitative evidence that the Troubled Families programme is actually responsible for ‘turning around’ the families it comes into contact with.
  • 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.
  • As a result, those involved in the Project’s management are just mapping this progress and not actually contributing to outcomes, at all.
  • Much of the basis for the ‘independent evaluation’ of the Troubled Families programme is done on cases which have been labelled high risk. This means they will be dealt with by a ‘flagship’ Troubled Families team, which has a smaller case load and so 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, but it is used as the basis for evaluation of the entire programme.
  • The programme is also being used to fill the hole created by cuts in local government funding. Refusal to engage in the programme is therefore not accepted by Troubled Families process managers, so staff use ‘creative’ tactics to make up the numbers. This has led to the coercion and harassment of families, who are being subjected to a ‘hard sell’.
  • All of this has created a culture of unethical practices which sees staff dishonestly reclassifying cases so they ‘fit’ into the programme.

These are hugely concerning sentiments and ones which we should take seriously.

Will an independent body investigate the claims?

A very big thank you to the stellar Tracey McMahon over at SHE for alerting us to this piece.