All the relevant 152 councils in England have signed up to the Government's Troubled Families programme. What this really means is that they each now have an incentive to come up with their own programme. The more of the 120,000 families that are "turned round", the more funding the council responsible will get. There will be payment by results which will be measured by the reduction of the number of children excluded from schools, family members engaged in crime, and adults stuck on welfare.
The programme envisages that there should be "intensive interventions" that cover the whole family. Where a council succeeds it will be paid £4,000 per family. The Government believe that the existing Family Intervention programme – which helps teach parents basic tasks such as how to cook – has had some success. Staff on the programme turn up unannounced to help establish routines such as getting the children to bed or getting them up to go to school.
While the criteria for councils being paid has been set out, the content of their intervention will be up to them.
The framework document says:
This document is not a delivery strategy. It does not cover good practice on interventions for families, or provide advice on drawing up your local business case for investment or redesigning of public services. We will have a role in helping to build up and share that kind of information among the network of Troubled Families co-ordinators, but are not attempting to do that here.
Of course there is already lots of evidence of what has worked. But I hope that some of the councils will be innovative.What about extra help if the children (or indeed the adults) are unable to read? What is being done about Pupil Referral Units that achieve poor results?
The 120,000 troubled families are about to enter a "postcode lottery" as some of the 152 councils will do better for them than others. That is what localism means. The programme has a chance of success which is preferable to the proven failure of centralist, prescriptive policies where £8 billion a year is spent without addressing the causes of the families' problems.