Troubled Families is providing a significant net financial benefit to society, an evaluation of the programme’s performance has found.
The latest government-backed analysis of evidence gathered so far in the second phase of Troubled Families, which begun in 2015 and ends in 2020, says there is “a good economic and fiscal case for the programme”.
A cost benefit analysis based on the recorded impact of interventions found even modest improvements in outcomes for families on the programme, compared to the comparator group of families in similar circumstances, have significant cost benefits through demand reduction on high cost services for those in the most acute need, particularly children’s social care and the criminal justice system.
“We hope the government takes the lessons from this programme and applies it more widely,” Martin Reeves, Solace finance spokesperson
The total net economic benefit of improved outcomes for families on the programme in 2017-18 were estimated to be £366m, suggesting every £1 spent on Troubled Families delivered £2.28 in benefit.
The total net fiscal benefit, which includes only the budgetary impacts on services, for the 2017-18 group was an estimated as £147m, equating to a £1.51 for every £1 spent.
However, the evaluation says these figures are based on a limited set of outcomes considered over a five-year period, when the benefits to young children are likely to have an impact for a longer time.
Evidence from case studies in five areas and staff surveys suggests the programme has driven the transformation of services, with a shift to early intervention, a focus on outcomes and data, work with whole families and multi-agency collaboration.
The evaluation says services were focused on families in crisis in the early stage of the programme rather than intervening early to address problems escalating.
However, 86% of Troubled Families coordinators said the programme is now “fairly or very” effective in focusing on early intervention. However, the evaluation said many families on the programme still have multiple complex needs.
The evaluation also found a focus on the whole family had been established by sharing data between services, which had encouraged the adoption of standardised assessment frameworks and plans for outcomes as well as a single route for referrals across agencies.
But the evaluation found services could develop this approach further in many areas, particularly by using data to improve commissioning and providing real-time data to practitioners.
In a speech earlier today housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire backed the continuation of the Troubled Families programme after the latest evaluation found it has reduced the levels of children going into care, juvenile criminal convictions and unemployment.
“This programme is proving it has a valuable role to play as we look forwards to the upcoming spending review,” he said.
However, while the evaluation found families on the programme at 7-12 and 13-18 months had statistically significant lower levels of children on child protection plans than comparator families, there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups at 19-24 months.
The evaluation also found no statistically significant difference between the two groups in the proportion of children classified as ‘in need’ after joining the programme.
The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers’ spokesperson on local government finance, Martin Reeves said the evaluation’s recognition of the programme’s achievements was “reassuring”.
He added: “It demonstrates the value of early intervention across a range of integrated services and we hope the government takes the lessons from this programme and applies it more widely.”
Stuart Gallimore, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said there is “no doubt” Troubled Families is delivering results.
He added: “The pressures we face in children’s services are such that much-needed funding for this programme is currently propping up our efforts to act early and offer support before families reach crisis point.”