The Benefit System

‘Troubled families’ scheme extended

‘Troubled families’ scheme extended

 This week the government has defended and expanded one of its flagship welfare policies: the Troubled families scheme. The scheme identifies ‘high risk’ families, characterised by “multiple and complex problems”, such as anti-social behaviour and truancy[1]. The scheme costs £448 million[2][3] and aims to ‘turn around the lives’ of 120,000 families through intensive and co-ordinated support[4]. “Families with Multiple Problems” are judged to have at least five of the seven criteria:

  • No parent in the family is in work;
  • Family lives in poor quality or overcrowded housing;
  • No parent has any qualifications;
  • Mother has mental health problems;
  • At least one parent has a longstanding limiting illness, disability or infirmity;
  • Family has low income (below 60% of the median);
  • Family cannot afford a number of food and clothing items[2].

The central government works alongside local authorities by providing up to £4,000 per family towards the cost of successful intervention[5]. Interventions are tailored to the family’s specific needs through a number of mixed methods. Parents are offered help, advice and counselling, though may also have sanctions imposed.

The Government ‘tsar’ in charge of the Troubled families scheme, Louise Casey, told the Local Government Chronicle that the scheme has been a great success so far, with the number of interventions having increased to 35,000 in its first year. She also praised the decision by the government to increase the budget by £200 million to help an extra 400,000 ‘high risk’ households. Ms Casey also told the LGC that she intends to ‘refine’ the program through working with ‘colleagues’ (other government services)[6][7][8]. Ms Casey has previously criticised the uncoordinated nature of public services in Britain, claiming that the police, job entre officials and social workers needed to be joined up to be effective[9].

Proponents argue that the scheme is a recognition of a multifaceted view of the causes of poverty and looking at multiple indicators and that focussing on income inequality many families with greater needs ‘slip through the net’. They also argue that helping troubled families saves public money in the long run, with up to £22,000 of ‘realisable savings’ per family[6].

Opponents argue that the scheme stigmatises poor families and is being made worse by other government policies. The fact that the system is a payments-by-results system has also been criticised due to the fact that it may mean particularly vulnerable families may be ignored[3].


  • Is it right to switch the focus of welfare reform from income inequality to multiple indices of deprivation? Which indices are appropriate?
  • Are other government policies counter-productive to this objective?

By Will Archdeacon

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