£1.3bn Troubled Families scheme 'had no discernible impact'

The Government's flagship £1.3bn Troubled Families scheme had "no discernible" effect on entrenched problems such as unemployment, truancy and anti-social behaviour, according to an unpublished review for Whitehall.

A senior civil servant told the BBC's Newsnight programme that ministers had buried the report by consultancy Ecorys because its "damning" findings would prove embarrassing.

The Troubled Families schemes was launched by David Cameron in 2012, in the wake of the previous summer's riots, to tackle multiple problems affecting the 120,000 most troubled households in the country at a cost of around £448m.

It was subsequently extended to cover another 400,000 families, costing an additional £900m.

Last year, then local government secretary Eric Pickles hailed the scheme as a "triumph" that will save taxpayers £1.2bn in dealing with the effects of multiple problems.

Local authorities were paid up to £4,000 on a payments-by-results basis for turning families around, meaning children were back in school for more than a year, youth crime and anti-social behaviour had been significant cut and an adult had moved off benefits into work for at least three consecutive months.

The Government has claimed that 98.9 per cent of the 118,000 families taking part in the scheme have been turned around.  

However, Newsnight said the Ecorys report, which looked at data from 56 councils, found "no discernible impact on the percentage of adults claiming out-of-work benefits either 12 or 18 months after starting the programme".

It added there was "no obvious impact on the likelihood that adults were employed 12 or 18 months after starting on the programme".

In addition, there was no discernible impact on adult offending and, while it was more difficult to match the treatment and comparison groups looking at outcomes for children, the findings suggested there was "no detectable impact on child offending".

The report said sample sizes for national data meant it was "feasible to detect impacts which were relatively small in magnitude".

Ecorys also said families could be classed as "turned around" even when children were persistently truant or involved in crime, as long as it was less frequent than before.

DCLG denied that any reports on Troubled Families have been suppressed.

A spokesman said: "There were several strands to the evaluation work commissioned by the last government and there is not yet a final report."