Trouble in the Troubled Families Department

I have a sort of Love-Hate relationship with the Trouble Families Programme and so I like to keep abreast of developments and opinion as it unfolds, for instance the announcement last week on September 10th that 14,000 families have now been ‘turned around’.

I am torn between the belief that intensive family support can be extremely productive – and that this is in fact what brought many folk into social work in the first place – and the concern about the turn such a model of intervention has taken on the current government’s watch. Intensive Family Support Programmes have a proud heritage and it is from them, significantly, that we have learnt much about children’s violence to parents in the UK.

The organisation Action for Children has been working with some of the most vulnerable families for over 140 years,. They established the first Intensive Family Support service to address the needs of families at risk of eviction due to anti-social behaviour in Dundee in 1996, a model that spread around the country, although mostly without the original residential element. You can read the Scottish report on the success of the programmes here, and there is much other work from Hunter, Nixon and Parr, who were involved in the evaluation of the projects and who went on to write extensively about “Mother abuse”.

Action for Children have remained firmly connected with the programme and hosted a breakfast briefing in June at which Louise Casey spoke, referring to the £2million being made available in 2015 following the Spending Review, in order to reach a further 400,000 families.

This week the views that many hold about both Eric Pickles (Local Government Secretary) and Louise Casey (Head of the government’s Troubled Families Programme) were confirmed by their rhetoric about the propensity to large numbers of children in so-called troubled families, and the need to inflict pain on such people to achieve any positive change in their lives. Indeed, the challenging rather than caring approach has been one of the hallmarks of this latest iteration of the programme from the start. You can turn almost any direction on social media to find a response to this, but I would particularly recommend the blog by A Kind of Trouble, which brings us the ‘recontextualisation’ and ‘operationalization’ of the Troubled Families Programme.

So, to those working in the programme I say Well done; Keep going; Find strength from colleagues who share your values and beliefs; Challenge by all means, but please restrain from inflicting pain. The pressure you are under is intense, but the role you have with families is beyond price.

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