Area told it has 1,700 troubled families finds... 32
Three London boroughs are struggling to find anywhere near the number of “troubled families” the government estimates they have.
The west London triborough partnership has found only 32 families that meet the government’s core “troubled family” criteria, despite the Department for Communities & Local Government estimating there are 1,720 such families across Hammersmith & Fulham LBC, Kensington & Chelsea RBC and Westminster City Council.
When the local definitions of what constitutes a troubled family are added to government criteria, the figure rises to 385 at most - barely a fifth of the official estimate.
The figures appeared in a cabinet report earlier this month, which says the councils have been doing “detailed analytical work identifying the cohort” since March. However, a Westminster spokesman told LGC the cabinet meeting had been postponed to give the councils time to work on the data.
LGC understands several councils have been hindered in identifying families because government departments, including the Department for Work & Pensions have not provided them with the necessary data.
In a statement James Thomas, Westminster’s director of family services, said: “The numbers in this cabinet report were indicative and we are still waiting on more data to accurately model our eligibility on a local level.”
The discrepancy between the government and council figures arises from the different measures used.
The estimate of 1,720 families is the three boroughs’ share of a national target of 120,000 based on research by the Social Exclusion Task Force in 2004. This measured factors linked to deprivation such as poor housing, low incomes and mental health problems.
However, for a family to be eligible for councils to work with in the programme, they must meet three government criteria (see below) based on school absenteeism or exclusion, criminal or antisocial behaviour or unemployment. To ensure the government target is met, councils can use their own criteria as long as two of the government’s are met.
But even with local criteria, the report shows the tri-borough councils are a long way off meeting the government’s target.
The tri-borough cabinet papers show that the three authorities have together found 32 families that meet the crime, education and worklessness criteria. They have found 24 families that meet the education and crime criteria plus local factors.
The councils have found 215 families that meet the crime, worklessness and local factors and 385 that meet the education, worklessness and local factors.
Asked whether the three councils expected to be able to identify 1,720 families, a Westminster spokeswoman said it was not yet possible to know.
Work on the troubled families scheme in the triborough area is due to begin in September, when a social work manager for the programme is due to start work.
The papers also say the councils aim to “maximise the opportunities offered by the DCLG Troubled Families Financial Deal, but minimise the risks posed by payment by results.” It says they will “work with the grain of existing service delivery and support statutory services, not seek to replace it or create another delivery silo.”
The document also warns: “The nature of the deal on offer involved considerable risk – it is not a grant, but an increasing proportion of the funding will only be paid on achievement of outcomes. Any future service re-design will be based upon the realities of this financial deal.
A DCLG spokesman would not comment on the individual case, but stressed that Louise Casey, the head of the programme, was happy to look into any concerns about data sharing.
A DCLG source said it was important to remember that councils signed up to their share of the 120,000 figure without “quibbling” about the figures.
How ‘troubled families’ are identified
To identify troubled families, the Department for Communities & Local Government has asked councils to look for the following:
1. Crime/anti-social behaviour
Identify young people involved in crime and families involved in anti-social behaviour, defined as ‘households with one or more under 18-year-old with a proven offence in the last 12 months”
“Households where one or more member has an anti-social behaviour order, anti-social behaviour injunction, anti-social behaviour contract, or where the family has been subject to a housing-related anti-social behaviour intervention in the last 12 months (such as a notice of seeking possession on anti-social behaviour grounds, a housing-related injunction, a demotion order, eviction from social housing on anti-social behaviour grounds)”
Identify households affected by truancy or exclusion from school, where a child “has been subject to permanent exclusion; three or more fixed school exclusions across the last three consecutive terms”
“Is in a pupil referral unit or alternative provision because they have previously been excluded; OR is not on a school roll”
“A child has had 15% unauthorised absences or more from school across the last three consecutive terms”
Once every family that meets criteria one and two has been identified, households which also have an adult on Department for Work and Pensions out of work benefits (Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Carer’s Allowance, Income Support and/or Jobseekers Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance) are identified
4. Local discretion
To make sure the government’s target is met, councils can then use their discretion to identify other ‘high cost’ families as long as two of the measures above. Such local criteria could include:
- Families containing a child who is on a Child Protection Plan or where the local authority is considering accommodating them as a looked after child
- Families subject to frequent police call-outs or arrests or containing adults with proven offences in the last 12 months, such as those who have been in prison, prolific and priority offenders, or families involved in gang-related crime
- Families with health problems such as emotional and mental health problems, drug and alcohol misuse, long-term health conditions, health problems caused by domestic abuse, under-18 conceptions