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Troubled Families Programme

Volume 756: debated on Monday 27 October 2014


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress is being made with the Troubled Families programme.

My Lords, the Troubled Families programme is performing very well and strongly. By June this year, more than 116,000 of the 120,000 families we pledged to turn around had been identified. One hundred and ten thousand of these were being worked with, and almost 53,000 have already been turned around. Updated figures will be released shortly, showing that the programme remains firmly on track.

My Lords, this is an important programme because it affects the most disadvantaged families in the country. Does my noble friend think that the co-ordination between the Department for Work and Pensions and his own department which has been criticised in the past is now good? I see from his figures that the programme has been expanded since it started. What are the financial implications of that?

My noble friend raises two important points. Co-ordination was a challenge, but, increasingly, we are working well across the board, both centrally and locally, in the delivery of what is an important programme. More recently, we announced joint working with the Department of Health in identifying certain issues pertinent to troubled families. My noble friend referred also to the expansion of the programme. The programme is indeed being expanded further to include up to 400,000 more families, meaning help for even more people.

My Lords, I hope we all agree that it is important that the Government provide effective and hands-on support to families with multiple and complex needs. But can the Government clarify whether a family once “turned around”—in their parlance—by a local authority can subsequently re-enter the Troubled Families programme? If so, how many have and what does that say about the sustainability of outcomes which the Government are claiming?

The noble Lord raises an important point. This is about ensuring that the issues which lead to families being defined as troubled—I am sure that many noble Lords are aware of the criteria—are intervened on for the long term and turned around. The noble Lord asked specifically about re-entering the programme. The issue is not about the families concerned re-entering the programme but ensuring that the mentor and the local officials who are appointed continue to work with them. As the noble Lord rightly points out, our intention is not just to take them out of the programme on a temporary basis but to ensure long-term sustainability in education, work and good health.

My Lords, every day before we went to school, my beloved mother used to say, “Education is your passport to life. You go to school and learn, learn, learn”. Sadly, not many parents, especially those with troubled families, motivate their children in this way, even though research has shown that reading with your child for just 10 minutes a day can have an enormous effect on their education. What are the Government doing to encourage parents in troubled families to get their children not just to attend school but to be ready to learn? How is the pupil premium helping families in this regard?

My noble friend refers to what she did before she went to school. Often, when I returned from school, I would turn on the television, albeit briefly, and I would see her teaching me a few things, and I am sure that she will continue to do so in the years ahead. Of course, the Troubled Families programme is targeted specifically at the importance of education and ensuring not just attendance at school but development and achievement there. That is why the Troubled Families programme is so important. It is about a person going in and ensuring that they deal with all facets of what is challenging a particular family.

My Lords, tomorrow morning the Prison Reform Trust will publish the latest edition of its well regarded Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile. Among other things that will show the continuing correlation between exclusion from school, being brought up in care and offending behaviour. In the light of this and of other responses already given, can the Minister give an assurance that the Troubled Families programme is being well co-ordinated with the Ministry of Justice’s young offenders policy?

I can give the right reverend Prelate that assurance. Indeed, in a previous incarnation when I was the Whip for the justice department, I saw the importance of many rehabilitation programmes directly through visits programmes. He raises an important part of the mix that defines troubled families. As he is well aware, one of the key elements is youth crime and targeting youth crime and anti-social behaviour. Again, what we are seeing, for the first time I believe, is not just departments working together, but people at a local level working well together to ensure that all people involved, whether in youth crime, those involved in not attending school, as my noble friend said, or those who are not in employment, get sustainable solutions for the long term.

My Lords, I pay tribute to Louise Casey, who has provided admirable leadership in this area and, previously, in removing rough sleepers from the streets of London and elsewhere. I declare my interest in the register in property. Is the Minister concerned about the unfit housing available to many of our poorest families—overcrowded, often damp, neglected, and without play areas for children? Can he say what he is doing with his colleagues to ensure that pregnant mothers and mothers with very young children have decent homes so that they can feel comfortable to rear their children, making strong bonds of affection with them and avoiding this route into troubled families, with their children developing poorly and their relationship with their children deteriorating over time?

First, I join the noble Earl in his tributes to Louise Casey. She has undertaken a great initiative on the programme referred to. She is also, as the noble Earl is aware, dealing with the very challenging issues that we currently face in Rotherham and we wish her well in the inquiry there. I am sure that is the sentiment of all in your Lordships’ House. On the issue of housing, of course the Government appreciate the importance of good, sustainable housing. Therefore, as many noble Lords will know, we have embarked on a programme of housebuilding that is helping those who are most challenged in the rental sector. We are encouraging buy to rent and we are also encouraging more people to enter the housing market. The Government have a raft of different housing initiatives because we believe, as the noble Earl rightly points out, that a good home and a good home for a family at the beginning is the keystone, pivotal point and foundation to ensure that a child and, indeed, the whole family progresses.

My Lords, quite a proportion of troubled families are headed by women who are in contact with, or have been in contact with, the criminal justice system. Is it not vital that the Government continue to support the more than 50 women’s community centres in England and Wales which help such women turn their lives around and make them parents of whom their children are proud? Will the noble Lord speak to his colleagues in the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to make sure that the Transforming Rehabilitation programme does not leave these women’s centres behind? That is what I am most concerned will happen.

The noble Baroness raises a very important point. Indeed, in raising that issue she has both great experience and has done an incredible amount of work in the area of women’s rehabilitation, particularly women offenders, and I pay tribute to that. She has raised an important point about the need to work together and to ensure that the women’s groups work at a local level. On a slightly different matter, before coming to the House, I met a women’s group dealing with domestic violence and identifying those issues. I talked about extending the programme to 400,000. One of the defining criteria now will be looking at domestic violence to ensure that those who are impacted are assessed and, most importantly, helped and brought back so they can be proud of their own contribution and the contributions of their families to society as a whole.

Is there not a chance that we would have fewer troubled families if there was a greater emphasis on citizenship education in our schools?

As ever, my noble friend raises an important and pertinent point. Of course, I agree totally, but citizenship alone cannot turn everything around. Unfortunately, we have identified families up and down the country who need such intervention in education, employment, health. Together with that, they will want to serve as proud citizens, and citizenship classes are important in that.