Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Troubled Families programme is a fraud

Channel 4 has produced a programme which tracks the development of children from age seven. Some aspects of children`s lives are predictable and others are not.

Neighbours from hell

One of the problems with the Troubled Families project is the definition of a troubled family.

"The Department for Communities and Local Government had, in fact, published an "explanatory note" to the figures. And, looking at footnote 2, we can finally establish what the definition of a "troubled family", on which the Prime Minister's numbers were based, actually is. It is a family which satisfies at least 5 of the following 7 criteria:
a) no parent in work
b) poor quality housing,
c) no parent with qualifications,
d) mother with mental health problems
e) one parent with longstanding disability/illness
f) family has low income,
g) Family cannot afford some food/clothing items"
"What instantly leaps out from this list?  It is that none of these criteria, in themselves, have anything at all to do with disruption, irresponsibility, or crime. Drug addiction and alcohol abuse are also absent. A family which meets 5 of these criteria is certainly disadvantaged. Almost certainly poor. But a source of wider social problems?  Maybe, but maybe not - and certainly not as a direct consequence. In other words, the `troubled families` in the Prime Minister's speech are not necessarily `neighbours from hell` at all. They are poor.

Turning troubled families around

The next problem for local authorities is to find these families and to show that they have turned their lives around, but according to a social care worker with experience of the Troubled Families programme, it has become a fraudulent scam.

"My observations on the delivery of the programme so far are as follows:
"There is no qualitative evidence that the Troubled Families programme is actually responsible for ‘turning around’ the families it comes into contact with. It is claimed that many of the positive outcomes are a result of pre-existing Multi-Agency Partnerships."

"This is made all the more troubling because 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. In this case, those involved in the Troubled Families management simply ‘map’ this progress, despite the fact that these outcomes cannot be attributed to the work done by the programme itself."
According to North East Child Poverty: "Of the original criteria for being a problem family, only the employment status needs to be improved in order for the government to ‘pay out’ and claim a positive result in turning around the life of a family and for a Local Authority to receive funding for helping out." [Employment status is something that changes naturally in time anyway.]

"Addressing the other criteria such as material deprivation, poor quality housing, maternal mental health and low income doesn’t figure in terms of what counts as a radical transformation."

Professor David Gordon of Bristol University has written that:

"The idea of a group of feckless, feral poor people … can be traced from the Victorian ‘residuum’ through theories of pauperism, social problem groups and multiple problem families to the underclass arguments of today (Macnicol, 1987; Mazumdar, 1992; Welshman, 2006). The problem of poverty was blamed on ‘bad’ genes before the Second World War and on ‘bad’ culture after the discrediting of the eugenics movement by the end of the War."

"He goes on to note that the ten year long Transmitted Deprivation Programme concluded that ‘problem families do not constitute a group which is qualitatively different from families in the general population’ and also reports that a later review of ‘problem family’ literature argued that ‘the idea should be abandoned’ as it was ‘intellectually incoherent and unsupported by sound scientific evidence’ " (PSE, 2011).

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