David Cameron has given a target to local councils that by 2015 they are to have turned round 120,000 Troubled Families. These are families which each cost the taxpayer an estimated average of £75,000 a year. It's not just the welfare bill but the army of public sector operatives constantly meeting them – the social workers, the police, the housing officers, the education welfare officers and so on. Yet after that spending the children are truant from school, family members take part in crime and anti social behaviour and at least one adult family member is on out-of-work benefits.
Councils will be paid by results for families where the children go back to school, the adults get into work and crime ceases. How councils achieve this will be up to them but the basis will be of dealing the family as a whole – rather than expensive and unconnected contact with individual members.
So far the programme is on course. Progress varies from council to council but overall it is ahead of schedule. Leicestershire County Council has already identified 679 of its 810 families – 170% of those it agreed to in the first year of the programme – and is already actively working with 470.
In my boough of Hammersmith and Fulham we are combining our effort on this with our tri-borough colleagues in and Kensington and Chelsea. A have a total of 1,730 troubled families across the three boroughs. In the first year we committed to work with 576 families and have actually exceeded this by starting work with 622 families.
We use small caseloads (no more than six families per worker). We use of parenting programmes and all-family activities and have a specialist employment worker.
Wandsworth have a total of 660 troubled families and have already started work with 262 of them. Their Family Recovery Project is a model of "joined up" Government and Wandsworth Council are projecting savings of £29,000 per troubled family from their work
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles says:
"The Troubled Families programme is on track to deliver life-changing results for families and communities across the country. Many services have been set up from scratch over the past year so it is remarkable progress to already be reaching a quarter of the families who need help to change.
Troubled families are often living miserable lives and can also cause misery to the communities around them, draining around £9 billion per year from the public purse. This programme is not only transforming the lives of families we have too often not got to grips with in the past, but it will deliver considerable savings to the taxpayer by reducing their demand on services and helping them make a positive contribution to society instead."
This is one of the Government's most important and least reported policies.