Friday, 21 October 2016

Troubled families? No, a troubled programme!

The Department of Communities and Local Government launched the £448 million Troubled Families Programme in 2012, with the aim of transforming the lives of 120,000 of the most disadvantaged families in England. By 2015 the Department was claiming that the programme had achieved almost a 100 per cent success rate, resulting, it was said in huge savings in Government expenditure.

Many commentators at the time thought that all of this was just too good to be true.

But the Government was adamant. The programme, it said, had been a huge success. Now comes the publication of the National Evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme Final Synthesis Report which concludes:
“The key finding from the impact evaluation using administrative data was that across a wide range of outcomes, covering the key objectives of the programme - employment, benefit receipt, school attendance, safeguarding and child welfare - we were unable to find consistent evidence that the Troubled Families programme had any significant or systematic impact. That is to say, our analysis found no impact on these outcomes attributable to the programme, with observed outcomes for the Troubled Families Programme families being very similar to the outcomes for a matched comparison group of families.” (page 69)
Ill-thought-out policies, devised by politicians and policy-wonks and self-appointed experts are the curse of public policy. Not only are they a great waste of public money, but they are a great waste of human resources and human effort. They are huge distractions. During a period when important mainstream child welfare, safeguarding and protection services have become increasingly under-funded and under pressure, to squander public funds on flaky innovations, which then achieve nothing, is little short of reckless.