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Troubled Families Programme

Volume 583: debated on Monday 30 June 2014

The troubled families programme is performing strongly, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has announced that, two years into the three-year programme, over 97,000 of the 120,000 families who will be helped by the programme are being worked with, and that nearly 40,000 have already been turned around.

Has the Secretary of State had the opportunity to consider the impact of temporary accommodation on the families being looked after by troubled families units? Many of those families live in private rented accommodation. In my part of south London and, I am sure, in other parts of London and the south-east, large numbers of people are being placed in temporary accommodation as a result of eviction, some of which is quite distant from their home borough. Every Friday, I see families going from south-west London to Wembley, Tottenham and other parts of London. As I see them leave, I am troubled about the future for their children.

In preparation for answering the hon. Lady’s question, I asked what concerns she might have about her own authority, Merton, and I was told that she had not had a specific discussion with the authority on this subject. I should like to give her the very good news that Merton, with 337 troubled families, is ranked 120th among the local authorities. It has done an extremely good job and had worked with 86% of those families by the end of March, turning round nearly half of them. Merton has now put itself forward to work closely with the expanded programme, and I think the hon. Lady has reason to be proud of the way in which her local authority has handled this matter.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it makes sense to target resources on troubled families, who cost the public purse an average of £75,000 a year? Am I right in thinking that the Government are about to commit £200 million more to this programme, so that more troubled families can be helped and so that we can target help and resources on the 400,000 families in the greatest need?

It is probably a good thing that we have kept this reasonably simple. It is about getting people back into work, reducing the amount of antisocial behaviour and getting children back into school. My right hon. Friend is right to suggest that the programme has been a success, and I am also grateful for the support of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) in this regard. We will expand it, and we hope that it will change the lives of lots of people.

The troubled families programme should be aimed at families who are facing multiple challenges and who have the most complex needs. That is something that we would support. The Secretary of State asserts that the programme is succeeding, but how can he justify that when, even on his own tests, many of the families he claims to have “turned round” are still committing crimes, their children are still missing school and their family members are not working? Indeed, some of the families he claims to have turned round have been nowhere near the programme.

I do not understand the hon. Lady’s hostility. This has been a very successful programme, and we have worked closely with Labour authorities. There is a lagging authority, however. I understand that her experience might be different, in that Newham has identified 985 families and is working with 90% of them, but has turned round only 14% of them, compared with the national average of 33%. Let us be clear: we are not turning these good folks into model citizens—these are very difficult families—but if we can get the children into school for three successive terms, get other family members into work for three months and reduce the amount of antisocial behaviour, it is better for those people and for their neighbours. It is also a lot better than the rather smug attitude being taken by some Opposition Members.