President John F Kennedy said:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
The Communities and Local Government Secretary doubtless has similar feelings about turning around the lives of our country’s 120,000 most troubled families – except that going to the Moon might seem a bit easier.
Naturally enough, in the effort to turn these families round, we have found out more about them. A study has been produced.
Among other things, it says:
“Particularly striking is the level of mental and physical health problems for both adults and their children, with 71% of families having poor health, 46% having a mental health problem and 32% a long standing illness or disability. What is also worrying is the level at which this is found in the children in these households – with over a third of children suffering from mental health problems and a fifth a long standing illness or disability.
“The scale of violence in the home, which has been spoken of to me on many occasions by family workers, is also laid bare. Three out of ten families were experiencing domestic violence – something we believe to be an underestimate as violence is often unreported at first.
“These are statistics to be concerned about. But developing this knowledge about families means that we can understand more about how we need to approach families and offer help that has the best chance of working. Not only for their sake, but also recognising how expensive it is not to get the help we offer right.
“If there is any doubt about the strain on public services put on services by troubled families we need look no further than the number of police call outs this research outlines.
“Almost half of families had at least one police callout to the home in the last six months. In total there were 6,209 police call outs recorded in total in the previous six months to 1,316 families, an average of five callouts per family. One family had 90 police call outs in six months, and 21 families had more than 30 callouts in six months – more than once a week.
“So with this information about the level of problems families have and the strain they put on services, we can seek to draw some conclusions about our response to troubled families. The multiplicity and layering of problems that this report sets out means that services simply carrying on as they were before will find it hard to reach or help troubled families.”
It was already known these families had multiple problems. That was how they came to be chosen. They have an adult on out of work benefits and a child playing truant and a family member involved in crime/anti social behaviour. This study shows they are often be in far more trouble besides.
Mr Pickles responds:
“This report is an eye-opener into the lives that troubled families lead. We already knew that they were stuck in a rut and costing the taxpayer billions of pounds every year without intervention through the demand they put on services.
“But these figures show that the scale of their problems is truly shocking and puts the achievement of having turned around 53,000 troubled families already into an even starker light. That’s why I’m pleased we will be taking the hands on, tough love approach of the Troubled Families programme even further and faster and will start work with up to 40,000 additional families this year.”
As I have mentioned before, this programme is one of the Government’s most important, and least trumpeted, success stories.