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House of Lords Hansard
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Troubled Families Programme
12 September 2016
Volume 774

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they will respond to the unpublished report on the effectiveness of the Troubled Families programme.

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My Lords, while we do not comment on leaked reports, I can inform the noble Baroness that the first troubled families programme, which finished in 2015, was successful; for example, in seeing nearly 105,000 families with children back in school for three consecutive terms.

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I thank the Minister for that reply but is he aware that this programme has been criticised by many as a failure—not successful for either children or parents—at a cost of £1.3 billion? What analysis has taken place of the methods used in the programme to develop more successful methods—ones which work—in any future programmes?

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My Lords, I do not accept that the first programme was unsuccessful in any way. The figure the noble Baroness gave about the cost also encompasses the second phase of the programme, which has taken on board some of the lessons that we have learned. I am sure she will be very pleased that the troubled families programme has been embraced by 150 local authorities—all local authorities—and all political parties have supported it.

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Can my noble friend the Minister explain to the House some of the lessons that were learned and some of the improvements that are being made in the second programme?

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My Lords, one aspect that has been important in the second phase of the programme is that spot checks are made by people who go into local authorities to make sure that it is happening. The other very important factor that has been taken on board is that we started assessing and monitoring the programme from day one, rather than waiting until the end of the programme. Those are two of the lessons learned; we have also widened the criteria, which is very important.

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My Lords, the Minister said that he could not comment on a leaked report, but I wonder whether the Government plan to publish that report. Will he confirm when that will be and whether it will be published in full?

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My Lords, successive Governments have not commented on leaked reports, so that is indeed the position. We are working on the report, which we will publish as soon as possible. As I have said, there have been many successes. All local authorities have embraced this. We have families with children back in school. We have tackled joblessness. We have spent money on ensuring that all these issues are dealt with effectively. That is why—with broad support, I think—we have taken it forward to a second phase, with wider criteria.

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My Lords, I know that local authorities have welcomed the troubled families programme because it brings extra resources into their very difficult children’s services budgets. I am sure the Minister must know what is in this leaked report. Does he not think that it might be of benefit to incorporate this work into core social work and ensure that local authorities are able to do a proper job right across children’s services?

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My Lords, I do not accept for a minute that local authorities are not doing a proper job. In the year to March 2016, £130 million has been spent on tackling deep-seated problems of substance abuse, health and truancy. All these things are being tackled very successfully. Have we learned lessons from the first programme? Yes, of course we have. Will we learn lessons during this programme? I hope so. Meanwhile, this is a programme with broad support, which is doing a lot of good up and down the country.

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My Lords, success is always difficult to measure but improving the lives of 117,000 families, getting children back to school and reducing youth crime must be a success. Can my noble friend the Minister match the promises that we made in our manifesto to develop and increase a comprehensive range of family policies?

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My Lords, that is certainly the intention of broadening the criteria in the second programme, which is looking at anti-social behaviour, substance abuse and a wide range of health issues. So yes, the intention is to have a much broader, holistic approach in this second phase. The evidence of the first year, which has been monitored by an independent programme supported by Ipsos MORI, is that we are having success doing just that.

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My Lords, can the Minister explain his comment that the Government will be working on the report? Surely a report is either published or not published and it is then for others to look at its conclusions. What did the Minister mean?

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My Lords, I meant that the Government are working on the publication of the report. It is not yet ready for publication. We have to ensure that all the statistics and data are properly assessed before publishing it, which, as I say, will happen as soon as possible.

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How did the leak of this report occur?

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I am not at all sure. I am afraid I cannot advise the House as to how the leak occurred.

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My Lords, one of the successes of this programme, which I have seen in a number of places, has been to try to get proper co-ordination. With so many different silos addressing this and so many resources going to a limited number of families, one success has been the way that progress has been made by bringing real focus and integration. Can the Minister assure us that that lesson has been learned and that we will continue to see how we can get movement on this relatively small but very problematic and difficult group, and find the way forward?

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My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is right about the dangers of silo working. We have sought to obliviate that programme by broadening the criteria. In relation to the number of families being assisted, it is the aim of the second programme that by the end of this Parliament 400,000 additional families—on top of those in the first programme—will have been helped. In the first year, we have so far helped 145,000 families.

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My Lords, can the Minister assure me that his department is concerned with the accuracy of the report, rather than seeking to change either its recommendations or its conclusions?

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My Lords, as always, government departments are minded to ensure that the report is accurate. That is true of the civil servants who are working on this. Of course that is the aim; we want the proper information in the public domain. In the meantime, we have learned some of the lessons from the first programme. I believe that the first programme was a success and the second will be even more successful.