Tag Archives: troubled families

Flagship Troubled Families Scheme Slammed As A Fraudulent Scam By Social Worker

Royal family at Buckingham Palace

Everybody’s knows them. The parasitic families plaguing the lives of ordinary decent people. Parents on benefits, kids running rampant, a sense of entitlement passed down through generations. The kind of people who expect everyone else to clean up after them. But enough about her Majesty.

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According to the social worker who spoke out today, many families were identified as ‘troubled’ based on out of date information and so had already been ‘turned around’ by the time the scheme began.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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Misogyny, Ignorance and Guesswork at the Heart Of Pickles’ Community Strategy

Eric Pickles latest strategy to deal with troubled families is little more than a sticking plaster for Government cuts and based on crude misogyny, guesswork and complete ignorance of the problems faced by those with least.

Pickles is planning to get tough on families deemed ‘troubled’ by blaming them for situations which are entirely outside their control.  Parents with disabilities, in low paying jobs or living in poor quality housing can now expect to be blamed for their own misfortune by an army of council funded busy bodies who are to be given the power to tell them off without fear of ‘political correctness’.

According to the Government, a troubled family is to be deemed to be one that meets five out of the following seven criteria: a low income, no-one in the family in work, living in poor housing, parents with no qualifications, having a  mother who has a mental health problem, one parent with a long-standing illness or disability,or where the family is unable to afford basics, including food and clothes.

Pickles has been justifying his  latest scheme in the Independent over the weekend with a series of made up stories such as the teenage father who refuses to speak to his allegedly non-english speaking child or the mother ‘on the verge of a nervous breakdown’ because she didn’t know how to use a washing machine.

Pickles, who favourably compares himself to woman-beating racist Geoffrey Boycott, has a bit of a thing about women’s  mental health.  This may explain his patronising attitude to Caroline Flint in the House of Commons, who he refers to as ‘dear’, or be the reason he suggested a ‘charming’ female Camden Councillor should take ‘anger management classes’ for having the gall to write  him a letter.  Once again the crude misogyny at the heart of the Tory Party rears it’s ugly head.

Despite mental health services being cut to the bone, mothers (but not fathers) with mental health conditions will be singled out as especially to blame for their illness and will be told off very strongly.  This new strategy of lecturing and moralising at people whilst stripping away vital housing, healthcare and benefits will be rolled out across the country with local councils paid according to a system of crude results. The scheme has echoes of Chris Grayling’s disastrous Work Programme, which attempts to blame unemployed people for being unemployed.  Latest figures suggest that less people are finding jobs on the Work Programme than if they had been left to their own devices.

Councils will be able to claim £4000 should they find someone a job for three months, which is a reasonably heavy incentive to provide three months temporary employment themselves.  This will be a boon to the aforementioned Work Programme, who’s private contractors will also be able to pick up a fat fee should they have the individual on their books.  The factors deemed to indicate families which are troubled are so crude that it will include the vast majority of the very poorest.  Councils will be able to cherry pick people to work with from a huge base, which is no doubt why they’ve agreed to the scheme.

Unfortunately there is nothing on offer in terms of real help.  What people who are in poor quality housing need is better quality housing.  With the ruthless Housing Benefit cutting regime currently in place they will get the opposite.  Families who can’t afford basic food and clothing need more money, not benefit cuts.  Unemployed families are unlikely to prosper at a time of Tory created high unemployment, whilst there is little or no provision in the Work Programme to help those without qualifications.  Disabled parents will find themselves forced into the brackets of being a ‘troubled family’, simply because this Government has plans to strip away benefits from 20% of disabled claimants.

Meanwhile there is a real danger that families who do not fall into these groups will become sidelined and ignored as social security budgets are slashed for anyone who doesn’t fit Eric Pickles’ criteria.

Pickles claims that ‘nice people’ asked him during last year’s riots what the parents of the children involved were doing.  Pickles is right when he insists that they were not at a ‘whist club or a Sunday social’.  What he fails to understand is that many of them were probably at work.  The problems Pickles is seeking to address are far more complex than his over-worked little mind can seem to grasp.  This is why the current solutions, crude and often ineffective as they are, can appear complicated and messy and involve different agencies.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some simple solutions that could make a big difference.  Decent housing, a liveable minimum wage, the restoration of grant funded education and EMA, benefits that actually pay the bills, better funded mental health care, access to real training for unemployed people, an expansion of youth clubs and a halt to the devastating cuts in public services would all make a difference.  This Government’s policy is to pursue the very opposite, by making the poorest poorer and then seeking to blame them for their plight.

The current obsession with simplifying and streamlining services is just Tory spin meaning more cuts.  They hand out a few pence with one hand whilst laying entire cities to waste with another.  The obsession with payment by results simply means that the easiest to help are targeted, often those who didn’t even need the help in the first place.  The most vulnerable, chaotic, anti-social or indeed troubled families will be sidelined simply because there’s little chance of an ‘outcome’ payment at the end.  And what those ‘outcomes’ should actually represent are little more than what a Government minister decided on the back of an envelope that morning.

Pickles’ new strategy is a panicky and vague response to last year’s riots and was actually first announced by Cameron last Autumn.  Whilst vital public services are being decimated it will not make the slightest difference to the lives of ‘troubled families’ or the communities they live in.  Steeped as these plans are in the usual out of touch Tory dogma, shop keeper’s son Pickles may actually end up making things even worse.