A front-line social care worker has accused the government’s flagship Troubled Families programme of being a ‘fraudulent scam’ that is subjecting families to ‘coercion and harassment’ and wasting public funds.
The comments have been published by respected research body the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies who last year also produced a report on the Troubled Families scheme. This, and today’s front-line testimony, reveal a very different side of the programme that David Cameron recently announced will soon be extended to 400,000 more families.
Officially Troubled Families has been a huge success. A dubiously huge success. According to the government’s figures, of the 120,000 families referred to the scheme, 99% have had their lives ‘turned around’. It is almost a fucking miracle. Despite claims these families were the so-called hardest to help, facing ‘multi-generational worklessness’ and causing a blight on communities, all it took was someone clipboard clutching bureacrat hassling them to get a job every other Thursday and poverty, crime and social exclusion have been almost brought to an end in the UK. And all this has been achieved despite vicious cuts to social services departments, policing budgets and state benefits. You almost wouldn’t believe it. Don’t believe it.
What has actually taken place is a mass cooking of the books by local authorities that would have made even the fraud ridden welfare-to-work sector blush.
According to the social worker who spoke out today, many families were identified as ‘troubled’ based on out of date information and so had already been ‘turned around’ by the time the scheme began. They were still recorded as positive outcomes however, as were families who had been helped by pre-existing multi-agency partnerships. Some families were coerced into joining the scheme with ‘creative’ tactics to get the numbers up, whilst according to last year’s report many families would not even have been aware they had been designated ‘troubled’.
The Crime and Justice report suggests that instead of these families being genuinely helped what has often taken place is a data matching excercise. In other words local authorities look at the families they have on their books and, as an example, if they notice someone got a job recently they sign them up as Troubled Family and claim a successful outcome. Or they find a kid who had previously been truanting and has now stopped and so stick them on the Troubled Families programme so they can claim the credit for that. Just like the Work Programme and other payment by results schemes, the Troubled Families programme assumes that nobody ever turns themselves around. So when people do it must be the result of an ‘intervention’ even if no intervention ever actually took place.
Despite the inventive accounting, the real results for Troubled Families range from dismal to suspicious. Just 10% of families entered work due to the scheme and most of the positive outcomes were due to a reduction in crime or educational related measures. Yet according to the Crime and Justice report many of these families do not seem to have been particularly troubled. Only 3% of families studied in an evaluation of the scheme had kids who had committed more than one criminal offence in the previous six months. So a teenager nicks a chocolate bar, then doesn’t do it again – there’s an outcome. If they keep on nicking however they are likely to removed from the Troubled Families programme because they are making the numbers look bad.
This is how your money is being spent. Manufacturing evidence to make politicians look good with no thought at all for the real needs of families who are genuinely in trouble. Who by the way mostly just need more money,
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