Scheme to help troubled families defended despite national doubts

Stephen Hillier,  West Sussex County Council cabinet member for children - start of life (photo submitted). SUS-160418-165921001

Stephen Hillier, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for children - start of life (photo submitted). SUS-160418-165921001

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A national scheme to turn around the lives of disadvantaged families has been defended locally, despite doubts over its effectiveness.

Analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) into phase one of the Government’s Troubled Families scheme was ‘unable to find consistent evidence that the programme had any significant or systematic impact’.

But West Sussex County Council, whose own version of the scheme, ‘Think Family’, was adjudged to have helped turn around the lives of more than 1,000 families between 2012 and 2015, has highlighted the benefits of the scheme.

Stephen Hillier, cabinet member for children – start of life, said: “By focusing on the family rather than just mum, dad or one of the children, the team can provide better support and improve the way individual services work together.

“Their work can save a family from tipping over into crisis.”

Phase one of the scheme focused on crime, antisocial behaviour, education and parents out of work.

Phase two – from September 2014 – expanded its horizons to include issues such as domestic violence, health and ‘children in need’.

Families are assigned keyworkers, partly funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

A county council spokesman said authorities had flexibility in designing their own schemes.

WSCC was adjudged to have had a 100 per cent success rate in phase one, helping around 1,400 families.

It has until March 2020 to deal with 3,940 families identified as eligible under phase two.

It has currently recorded a success rate of 26.7 per cent.

The spokesman added: “Although many do not yet fulfil the full DCLG criteria, we look at all changes and just over 80 per cent of these families have seen a positive impact of change and a measurable improvement in their circumstances.”

David Cameron’s government set up the Troubled Families scheme in the wake of the 2011 riots in London.

The cost of the initiative, intended to help more than 500,000 families nationwide, has been estimated at £1.3billion.