Up to half of councils could see funding for the troubled families programme held back until they work with more families, under new rules from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Under plans announced on Tuesday, DCLG will hold back money from councils that are working with fewer than three quarters of the families they pledged to support by 31 March this year.
Authorities will now only receive money when they can show that they have started supporting the “vast majority” of the families that they originally agreed to help in the first year of the scheme.
The government hopes the move will be an incentive for councils to extend their schemes to more families.
It estimates that about half of councils will be working with at least 75% of the families they pledged to support - and so will receive all of the upfront payments they request for the second year of the family intervention scheme. The rest will have some of the funds held back until they increase their numbers.
Councils working with between 33% and 75% of the families that they agreed to support in the first year of the scheme will only be given half of the upfront payments – or “attachment fees” – that they request in the scheme’s second year, from April 2013. They will get the other half once they are working with the “vast majority” of those families.
DCLG has also set tougher sanctions for councils that are working with fewer than 33% of the families they originally pledged to support. These councils – estimated by DCLG to number only a handful, if any – would receive no upfront payments for the second year of the scheme until they showed “significantly improved performance”.
The funding decisions will be based on the number of families a council is working with by the end of March, meaning that authorities have time to extend their schemes before the deadline.