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22.09.15

Troubled Families-style programme could reform spend on social exclusion – IPPR

A new £100m government programme based on the existing ‘Trouble Families’ initiative could reform poorly targeted spending, support the integration of local services and help vulnerable adults, a think tank has suggested.

The Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR) has drafted plans for a new ‘Breaking Boundaries’ programme that would base itself on the successes of ‘Troubled Families’ to tackle social exclusion by focusing spending on reformed and devolved local services.

It said that while a £4.3bn per year is spent on adults experiencing social exclusion – such as homelessness, offending and substance misuse – most of it is spent on tackling symptoms not causes. The report argues that less cash is being focused on services these individuals rely on to deal with problems, despite a “rising need” for them.

The ‘Breaking Boundaries’ model would thus strive to achieve better outcomes from the existing multi-billion pound funding by drawing on examples from ‘Troubled Families’ – a programme launched in 2011 as a way to improve the lives of families with multiple and expensive problems.

The IPPR argued that, while the original programme presents “serious weaknesses”, it has still helped pioneer integrated support and reduce demand for crisis-led services, making it a chief model of local integration and tailored support.

The drafteprogramme would require up to £100m per year for four years. The funding would be split into two, with two-thirds of the budget to local areas to introduce intensive one-to-one support for troubled individuals and support local service integration and transformation. One-third would be directed to council on a pay-for-performance basis, judged at area-level outcomes rather than individual-level.

It would seek to support upper-tier local authorities to integrate services catered to individuals experiencing two or more problems tied to social exclusion. These upper-tier authorities would help design the programme in partnership with specialist and voluntary organisations, as well as disadvantaged people with strong insight onto what is needed.

It would also allow these councils to bid for devolved shares of central funding, such as employment support and mental health and community safety funding. The programme would then ensure locally-pooled budgets matched its funding.

Clare McNeil, IPPR’s associate director, said: “Too much public spending on individuals experiencing problems such as addiction, homelessness, offending and poor mental health comes too late and doesn’t help people deal with the multiple problems they often face.

“At the next Spending Review, the government must prioritise improving value for money for spending on this group. Our recommendations build on the example of the Troubled Families programme and introduce new long-term reforms for local services to help the most excluded.”

The creation of the programme was motivated by predicted upcoming cuts in November’s Spending Review. The IPPR calculated that local government will face service cuts for up to £5bn in real terms if grants are reduced by the same amount as in the 2010 Spending Review.

As a result, specific services for vulnerable adults would be hit hard. The think tank estimated that local mental health provision for adults could be cut by 43%, while the programme for vulnerable people seeking independence in their own home could be slashed by 44%.

This is in spite of a 55% spike in rough sleeping in the UK over the past five years, with 13,000 households accepted as homeless by their local council in the first quarter of 2015.

(Top image c. Trowbridge Estate)

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