If you don’t, it’s not surprising (our readership back then was around a quarter of its current level) – and you haven’t missed much, because the scheme is back in the news as it is (again, unsurprisingly) failing.
The VP article pointed out that the government had been fiddling the figures in its bid to make it seem that 120,000 such families exist in the UK; in fact, “the number came from Labour research on disadvantaged families with multiple and complex needs, rather than families that caused problems,” according to ‘trouble families tsar’ Louise Casey at the time.
The article pointed out that local councils, offered a £4,000 bonus for each ‘troubled’ family they identified and helped (for want of a better word) were shoehorning families into the scheme – whether they qualified or not – just to make up the numbers.
It was doomed from the start.
So today we have figures obtained by Labour’s Hilary Benn, showing that around 106,500 families have been identified for the scheme (according to averages worked out from councils that responded to a Freedom of Information request). Of these, only around 35,500 were engaged by the scheme, which then failed in three-quarters of cases (around 26,600 families).
That leaves 8,878 families who actually came back to the straight-and-narrow – less than one-thirteenth of the target figure.
A success rate this low could have been achieved if the government had done nothing.
(That seems to be a running theme with the Coalition. What else does it remind us of? Ah, yes… The Work Programme. In this context it is extremely interesting that Mr Benn said the biggest obstruction to the scheme was the Work Programme’s failure “to deliver jobs to the poorest people in society”.)
According to The Guardian, “Data from 133 councils out of the 152 participating in the scheme found that almost one in seven families that had been “turned around” were either still on drugs, had children missing from school or involved in criminal acts.
“Another 60 per cent of households deemed to have been successfully helped by the scheme in March still had adults on unemployment benefits after leaving the programme.”
Bearing in mind the £4,000 ‘carrot’ that was waved in front of councils as encouragement for them to take part, you’ll enjoy the revelation that each local authority claimed to have found an average of 812 troubled families – 20 per cent more than central government had estimated.
Again, this is hardly surprising. Government-imposed council tax freezes have starved local authorities of money and £4,000, multiplied by 812, brings an average of £3,250,000 into each local authority that they would not, otherwise, have had.
So much for David Cameron’s plan to “heal the scars of the broken society”.
The Guardian also tells us that the ‘troubled families’ programme was launched by Cameron as a Big Society (remember that?) response to the riots of summer 2011.
In fact it doesn’t matter what the Coalition government does – or, indeed, what Labour plans to do if that party comes into office in 2015; schemes that are imposed on people from above will never succeed.
The problem is that the United Kingdom has become an increasingly unequal society, with money and privilege bled out of the majority of the population (who do most of the work for it) and into the hands of a very small number who have power and – it seems – no responsibility at all.
The vast majority of us are seen as disposable commodities by these exploiters – whose number includes a large proportion of MPs with interests in private business; they use us to make their huge profits and then throw us into unemployment.
Is it any wonder that such betrayal breeds families that turn away from the system and take to crime instead?
When David Cameron slithered into Downing Street he said he wanted to “re-balance” society. In fact, he over-balanced it even more in favour of privilege and wealth.
Now we need a proper re-balancing of society. The only way to solve the problem of ‘troubled families’ – a problem said to cost us £9 billion every year, by the way – is for people to be born into a society where everybody is valued and receives a fair (in the dictionary sense of the term, rather than the Conservative Party definition) reward for their contribution.
That will mean a fundamental shift in attitudes that should be taught to everybody from the cradle upwards.
You won’t get it under the Conservatives or any other right-wing government because they are exploiters by definition.
Will you get it under Labour?
Possibly. But a lot of right-wing Blairite dead wood will have to be cleared out first, and Hilary Benn is not the man his father was.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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