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The programme has had two iterations since its introduction in 2012: the first programme ran from 2012 to 2015 and the second was due to run from 2015 to 2020. In January 2020, the MHCLG confirmed £165 million in funding to extend the TFP to March 2021.

2012-15 Programme

The previous 2012-15 programme aimed to “turn around” 120,000 families in England. Department for Communities and Local Government figures stated 116,654 of the 117,000 identified families had achieved this outcome by May 2015.

Based on the accompanying report, Benefits of the TFP to the taxpayer (2015), the Department estimated that the average gross cost saving to the taxpayer per family was £12,000, more than twice the average cost of the programme’s intervention at £5,493. The programme had a central government budget of £448 million.

The 2016 Public Accounts Committee report, Troubled families: progress review, criticised the Government’s evaluation. The Committee said the term “turned around” was “misleading” as the outcomes measured were short-term. The Committee also said the Department had “not demonstrated that the programme has provided genuine financial savings”. The Government, in its response to the report, agreed with the Committee’s recommendations and adopted new methodologies for evaluating the post-2015 TFP.

2015-21 Programme

Funding

In 2013, the then-Coalition Government announced that a second programme would run from 2015/16. A total of £1.1 billion of funding has been committed to March 2021. The programme intended to help up to 400,000 families “achieve significant and sustained progress against all their multiple problems and make work and ambition for all families” by 2020. The programme is primarily a payment by results scheme, where local authorities claim payment when their work with families results in significant and sustained progress against their identified problems, or achieve continuous employment. Funding is allocated to local authorities based on the level of need. From 2018, 14 authorities moved to an up-front funding model known as “earned autonomy”.

Who does the programme aim to support?

To be eligible for the TFP, each family must include dependent children and/or expectant parents, and have at least two of the six problems prescribed by the MHLCG. These relate to crime and antisocial behaviour, education, life chances, living standards, domestic abuse and mental and physical health.

Analysis in the MHCLG’s Annual report of the TFP 2019-20 (June 2020) shows that the most common problems faced by families related to children needing help (88%), worklessness (58%) and health (48%). Of the families on the programme, 49% had at least one child under the age of five at the start of the intervention. 74% of families were assessed as experiencing between two and four problems.

Who does the programme work for?

The MHCLG’s Annual Report of the TFP 2019-20 (June 2020) said that successful family outcomes numbered around 350,000 by 5 April 2020. Of these, around 30,000 families have adults who moved into continuous employment.

MHCLG analysis said the TFP was having a positive impact on offending outcomes for those families with a recent criminal history and for those who have been involved with children’s social care in the year before joining the programme. The impact of the TFP on employment, school attendance and domestic violence were either less significant or could not be established as a direct result of participation in the programme.

Full analysis of the TFP published by the MHCLG can be found in Sections 3 and 4 of the briefing. Section 5 describes external anaylsis on the programme since 2012. 

Future of the TFP

The December 2019 Conservative Party Manifesto stated that it “would improve the Troubled Families Programme and champion Family Hubs to serve vulnerable families”.

Funding

Following the announcement that funding for the programme would be extended to March 2021, several bodies have called for a long-term financial strategy for the programme. These included the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, and the President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. In July 2020, the Children’s Commissioner recommended that the Government create a new, cross-department strategy to support children’s development, involving the TFP.

In May 2020, the County Council’s Network called upon the UK Government to make TFP funds available “now to scale up family support services” and to set out a long term financial settlement in the forthcoming Spending Review, as it expected a rising pressure on services due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Programme

In the June 2020 Annual report, the MHCLG said some specific findings would “feed into discussions about the design of a successor programme”. These were that the programme was effective for families already in touch with services and families whose needs had not been identified before they start of the TFP. The Department also said that the programme worked best through two mechanisms: providing support alongside existing public services to families who have entrenched, complex needs and intervention with families who have lower identified needs and less contact with statutory services before joining the programme.

The TFP may also be renamed, if the decision is taken to continue the programme: In the 2019 Annual Report, James Brokenshire, then Secretary of State at MHCLG, acknowledged issues with the initiative’s name, saying that “it obscures as much as it enlightens”.


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