Government troubled families scheme branded a failure in the North-East (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Government troubled families scheme branded a failure in the North-East
A MUCH-hyped Government scheme to target ‘troubled families’ is failing to help them find work, a study warns today (Tuesday).
The ‘troubled families’ programme – hailed as a success by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles – is criticised by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Only last week, Mr Pickles said the scheme was “on track”, suggesting the lives of more than 22,000 such families had been “turned around” with intensive help.
That included 1,697 successes in this region, including in County Durham (312), Darlington (37), Middlesbrough (126), Stockton-on-Tees (173) and North Yorkshire (238).
But the figures also show that only 93 people in those 1,697 families – just 5.5 per cent – have found permanent work.
Not a single person has found a job in Darlington or Hartlepool and very small numbers in Middlesbrough (six), Sunderland (three) and County Durham (14).
Now the NAO has warned the scheme is “underperforming”, pointing to “poor co-ordination” in a programme that was launched quickly, following the 2011 riots.
Its report agrees there is “evidence that families are beginning to benefit”, from a scheme expected to cost £1bn over four years.
But it adds: “There is a risk that the expectations for the programmes will not be achieved.
“Evidence from programmes similar to that of the DCLG [department for communities and local government] suggests that local authorities will need to invest further to meet its target.”
Families are classed as ‘troubled’ if members are judged to have at least five characteristics from a seven-strong list.
They are; no work, poor quality housing, no qualifications, mental health problems, long-standing disability, low income and an inability to afford food or clothing.
Councils are paid up to £4,000 for each family they help. At the start, 80 per cent - or £3,200 – was paid upfront, reducing to 40 per cent in 2014-15.
But the NAO also expressed concern that:
- Only 62,000 families were currently in the programme - 13 per cent below the number that “might reasonably” have been found.
- A family can be counted as being “turned around” if it shows improvement in just one area.
- Cash-starved councils are spending only the upfront attachment fee on troubled families – not the further sums earned under ‘payment-by-results’.
The programme was launched in 2011 – in the wake of that summer’s riots – when David Cameron vowed to turn around the lives of 120,000 problem families by 2015.
The NAO also raised concerns about a related £200m ‘families with multiple problems’, scheme, to find work 22 per cent of people within three years.
So far, only 30 people in the North-East (against a target of 1,327) and 90 in Yorkshire (where there was a target of 2,239) are in jobs.
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