Councils must meet three criteria to secure payment from the government under the expanded Troubled Families programme, but will have wider freedoms to decide who qualifies for support.
Speaking to LGC, programme head Louise Casey said she had designed both the new criteria for payments and eligibility in co-operation with local authorities.
The expanded programme is due to start this year in 51 ‘early start’ areas judged to have performed well, before running nationally from 2015-20.
Since 2012 the government has invested £448m in the programme with a target to turn round the lives of 120,000 families by May next year.
The government last year announced that the programme would run for five extra years, aiming to work with a further 400,000 families and with £200m funding committed for its first year – almost twice the previous annual level.
The ‘early start’ councils will work with Ms Casey to develop independent national evaluation, complete a cost savings calculator and design a new system of data collection.
Payments will depend, as now, on demonstrating how families have been ‘turned round’, but will additionally require councils to both demonstrate through data a sound understanding of families’ progress, and complete calculations showing how investment through Troubled Families has freed resources.
Ms Casey said: “All three financial criteria need to be achieved so we understand the savings and costs better.
“It’s local authorities’ success in the existing programme that has made this expansion possible and I think it’s pretty remarkable that double the funding has been secured at the moment.”
Referring to the potential benefits that upfront investment in the programme could secure, she added: “We need to understand, for example, the savings that arise if fewer children are playing truant – do we need so many pupil referral units?”
Families must meet at least two of six criteria to qualify for the programme. The new criteria concern domestic violence,‘children who need help’ and ‘parents and children with a range of health problems’.
Ms Casey conceded the last two were imprecisely defined, but explained: “I could have been criticised for drawing up narrow criteria. These are wide so that local authorities can reach those they think they need to.
“It’s pretty clear they wanted to see the expanded programme moving into under school-age children.
“For school-age children it’s clear they are either in school or not, but for under-fives there isn’t such a clear test to see which families should be on the programme.
“This allows councils to work with families with a range of problems, including those who might fall below the other thresholds but would still benefit.”
Referring to the ‘health problems’, Ms Casey said: “I’m not concerned here with one child who is overweight but if parents have health conditions we know now that they their children may develop them too.”
The qualification for the expanded Troubled Families programme is at least two out of the following six criteria:
- Parents and children involved in crime or antisocial behaviour
- Children who have not been attending school regularly
- Children who need help
- Adults out of work or at risk of financial exclusion and young people at risk of worklessness
- Families affected by domestic violence and abuse
- Parents and children with a range of health problems
For the original programme the qualification was three out of:
- Are involved in youth crime or antisocial behaviour
- Have children who are regularly truanting or not in school
- Have an adult on out of work benefits
- Cause high costs to the taxpayer