Louise Casey, head of the government’s troubled families programme, has urged council leaders to challenge their chief executives to prepare to close services.
Speaking to leaders at a County Councils Network meeting last week, Ms Casey said “big thinking” was needed to make the troubled families programme succeed. The scheme will work with 120,000 families that meet criteria including worklessness, crime and school exclusion.
“It is important that we’re saying to staff, so what team are you going to decommission then, in 12 or 18 months’ time?” she said. “If you’ve got a reactive social care team now, will you need one, or will you need all the [staff] you’ve got? Should we be thinking about decommissioning a children’s home?
“Conscious of who you are, I wanted to suggest you go back to the chief executives and strategic managers and say, I’m glad you’ve identified your numbers, now what are we going to close, what are we going to stop funding because we’re so sure about our approach?” she said.
Ms Casey also warned of “vested interest” among council officers. “Everybody has the best of intentions, but the question is whether that’s also a vested interest in carrying on as they were – [believing that] all current service interventions and agencies are necessary.
“Well, we’re getting something wrong if people still need all these services. People who are leaders can do a nicer version of what I’ve done – I said to them, really, do you need to have all of those meetings?” she said.
Ms Casey also said she was worried about the impact on some ‘troubled families’ of the switch to monthly benefits payments under the Universal Credit system that will come into force next year.
“Things like Universal Credit are absolutely what the government wants to do and for very good and valid reasons,” she said. “But we will just need to make sure that this particular cohort of families that are already, to be blunt, sometimes drinking or using [drugs] their money away, don’t wipe out their rent that when that lump sum arrives on the first of every month. I might as well be candid about that, I am worried about that.”
She said the Universal Credit changes should be a spur for councils to help more families, more quickly. “Most of us helping those families…are going to have to think about some of the timescales we’re on here,” she said. “Universal Credit comes in in October 2013, that’s not a lot of time for us to get to some of them.”
During the event Ms Casey also said that fears about agencies not being allowed to share data under the programme were “nonsense.”