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Payment by results for troubled families ‘unlikely to deliver’

The government’s programmes to help families with multiple challenges need further investment, the National Audit Office has found, with the payment by results structure unlikely to deliver all potential benefits of the schemes.

The new report looks into the success and value-for-money of the Troubled Families, and the DWP’s Families with Multiple Problems programmes. It recognises that the rationale for the programmes is strong and they are already having an impact, with local agencies working together better.

But there is a risk that the expectations of the programmes will not be achieved – local authorities must invest further and identify more families who could be supported. Referrals to the DWP scheme have also been low; it is operating with only 26% of its expected volume, with only 4% of its target for employment outcomes.

There was not enough joint working when designing and implementing these programmes, leaving a considerable overlap. Variation in performance is also significant, the NAO stated.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “These innovative and ambitious programmes are beginning to provide some benefits but elements of both are underperforming. This is the result of poor coordination between the departments when designing and implementing their programmes; and of the risks taken in launching the programmes quickly.

“To achieve value for money, the departments must do more to understand how local authorities and providers react to the incentives in payment-by-results arrangements. To achieve their objectives, the departments need to continue to liaise with one another and monitor the success rate of both programmes, adjusting them when necessary.

“They must continue to work with local authorities and contractors to understand why performance is so varied, intervene if it does not improve, and quickly build an evidence base to show which interventions work best.”

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