Private Eye on the Dodgy Foundations of the Troubled Families Programme

I also found this article in the 27th July – 9th August edition of Private Eye criticising the government’s Troubled Families Programme. This was an initiative to tackle the problem families that feature so much in Tory propaganda and the pages of the Daily Mail. They’re the type of neighbours for whom ASBOs were invented, and whom Gordon Brown famously declared to be ‘feckless’.

The problem is, as the Eye reveals, there simply aren’t that many of them to require the massive amounts the government wishes to spend on the programme. Coupled with the fact that the contractor hired to carry out the programme is G4S, with its superb reputation for quality. Here’s the story:

The government’s Troubled Families Programme is itself troubled after coming under sustained attack from critics who argue that it’s simply blaming people who are poor rather than tackling anti-social behaviour.

Ever since it was launched by the unlikely figure of community secretary Eric Pickles, experts have criticised the foundations of its claim that there are 120,000 “troubled families” whose behaviour costs the country£9bn. They point out that the 120,000 statistic is based on an estimate of families with multiple disadvantages, not antisocial behaviour, and that nobody can come up with figures to justify the £9bn stated.

Just as well, then, that extra help is at hand. Under a £200m outreach service run in conjunction with councils and companies delivering the Work Programme, six firms will be staking their own money on their ability to turn troubled lives around under the government’s second big payment-by-results project.

Troubled families and local authorities in Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Warrington are especially fortunate to have assistance from a company that specialises in managing and co-ordinating the provision of services “to support workless people into meaningful, progressive employment”. Step forward, fresh from its triumph at the Olympics, G4S.

From this is appears that the Troubled Families Programme has been launched not because there is an actual need for the programme, but to satisfy the ideological and propagandistic needs of the Tories. As well as provide a nice little earner for the welfare-to-work companies.

Tory unemployment policy is based on the principle of ‘less eligibility’. Poverty isn’t due to economics and poor circumstances. It’s due to laziness and poor character of the unemployed themselves. Hence all the stories in the Daily Mail about problem families, and areas of high unemployment riddled with crime and plagued by drugs. The criminality and drug problems in those areas aren’t due to lack of job opportunities and poverty. No, they are the results of the immoral character of the people themselves, who prefer the squalor and misery of their lives to one of honest and respectable toil. and if people like them don’t exist, or exist in much smaller numbers, then it also casts doubt on Tory welfare policies as a whole. Without them, there is much less justification for harassing the disabled and ordinary unemployed. In order to keep up this façade that unemployment is all down to the anti-social bad attitude of the unemployed themselves, the government needs to be able to point to a large number of such ‘problem families’. And these clearly are invented through exaggerated and massaged statistics when they don’t exist. Hence the inflated statistics.

It also shows just how much of a scam the welfare-to-work industry is as well. I’ve posted a series of blogs on the repeated scandals of the welfare-to-work firms overcharging the government, to its marked indifference and even, it has been alleged, support and connivance. Private Eye has argued that the economics involved in government outsourcing means that these firms are only commercially viable through such fraud. It would appear from this that the Tories know this too, and so are desperate to give work to the private contractors in order to maintain the profitable illusion that private enterprise really is more efficient than government bureaucracy.

Quite apart from the fact that these companies may also be able to offer lucrative directorships in their turn, when the terms in power of certain MPs come to an end.

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One Response to “Private Eye on the Dodgy Foundations of the Troubled Families Programme”

  1. Florence Says:

    The large estimate I recall (probably the Guardian?) was based on the assumption that disability = “troubled”, so add in a couple of kids, or no wage-earner (like disabled & carer couples) and this inflated the figure nicely. It also played into the ideology that the disabled are mainly frauds = in need of G4$ “support”. How dare they!!! Consigned to the same bin as the “three generations of workshy” in a single family.

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