Gingerbread queries “muddled thinking” behind new government programme

Posted 4 April 2017

Gingerbread’s response to the news that controversial Troubled Families programme has received additional funding

The government has today announced further funding for the Troubled Families programme, originally launched in 2012. The focus of the new phase will be on tackling parental conflict and worklessness [1].

The programme has been criticised in the past for failing to demonstrate “any significant or systematic impact.”[2]

While Gingerbread welcomes the promise of better relationship support across family types, it questions the emphasis on ‘worklessness’ as an overriding obstacle to financial stability. While two-thirds of single parents work, the risk of working single parent families being in poverty sharply increased over the last year [3], emphasising that employment alone is not a solution to improving life chances. Today’s policy paper doesn’t address structural obstacles facing single parents out of work, such as lack of access to childcare, flexible work and training.

The announcement comes in the same week that new reforms to the welfare system are being rolled out, which will drastically reduce the level of financial support available to single parent families and other vulnerable groups.[4] Changes under universal credit will compound welfare cuts from last year that hit working single parents hardest [5].

Rosie Ferguson, chief executive of Gingerbread, commented:

“The government’s announcement of new funding for supporting so-called “troubled” families is liable to be seen as a cynical distraction dressed up as a laudable intervention. While there is no proof that the programme has had any positive impact on those it purports to help, there is a wealth of evidence that the government’s new welfare reforms will slash support from those who need it the most. There would be a better outcome for everyone – including the tax-payer – if the government shelved its muddled thinking on “troubled” families, and reversed its brutal targeting of the most vulnerable families too.”