Troubled Families rebrand needs a 'long-term' funding commitment

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Co-located services, a long-term funding commitment from government and a continuing focus on early intervention will all be key to making the rebranded Troubled Families programme successful, it has been warned.

The government has launched the “next phase” of the flagship programme, which will run from April 2021 to March 2022 and is being funded to the tune of £165m.

The initiative – which is now to be known as the Supporting Families programme – originally launched in 2012 and sees local authorities supporting some of the most vulnerable families in the country.

Families are assigned a dedicated key worker who helps to coordinate local services to resolve issues early before they can develop into significant problems.

The programme aims to tackle things such as abusive relationships, mental ill-health, and unemployment. When it comes to young people, a key aim of the initiative is to prevent children going into care or dropping out of school.

Since 2015, more than 401,000 vulnerable families have been supported by the programme and evaluation shows that it has reduced the number of children going into care by one-third, and the number of adults going to prison by a quarter.

However, the lack of a long-term funding commitment is a major concern for Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau (NCB).

Early last year, the government extended funding until March 2021, and now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has again extended funding for just one year.

Prior to this the programme had been funded over a five-year period offering the chance for local authorities to make longer term plans. However, the year-to-year scenario looks unlikely to change in the near future.

Ms Feuchtwang warned: “Without long-term funding from government, the Supporting Families programme will not have the clout to enable local services to step in when things go wrong – helping children, parents and carers keep their lives on track.

“Over the coming year, policy-makers say they want to work with the different people and organisations who provide support to children and families, to understand the existing and unfolding challenges they face. Following this, there is no excuse for short-term fixes. The government must make a lasting commitment to families and children as part of a wider cross-government strategy to nurture better childhoods.”

Elsewhere, the NCB says that locally determined services were crucial to the success of the programme and wants to see more co-located services, including schools and family hubs.

Ms Feuchtwang explained: “(The launch of Supporting Families) confirms the importance of locally determined services, that can cooperate closely to respond to localy identified needs. Better data-sharing will smooth these working relationships while also establishing a synergy between services.

“But it’s also important that families know where to get help, so we would like to see co-located services – whether they are children’s centres, family hubs or schools – that can help worried parents cut-through and connect with the right help, at the right time.”

She added: “It must be recognised that children’s services have been cut to the bone over the last decade, often leaving them capable of providing ‘crisis-only’ help. The Supporting Families programme has voiced its commitment to earlier intervention – true early help – we must now see that through, ensuring that adequate funding follows the vision.”

Announcing the one-year funding extension, housing secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, said: “Working hand-in-hand with local councils and other partners we have helped over 400,000 vulnerable families. For the next phase, Supporting Families will continue this important work backed by £165m funding to help families with multiple complex problems to overcome difficulties as early as possible. It is a critical part of our moral mission to tackle intergenerational unemployment, crime, domestic abuse and family breakdown. As we come out of the Covid-19 pandemic it is more important than ever we support families.”

  • Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government: Improving families’ lives: annual report of the Troubled Families Programme 2020 to 2021, March 2021:

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