The Most Troubled Families In Britain



Louise Casey was brought in following the summer riots to oversee David Cameron's pledge to turn around the lives of the 120,000 most disadvantaged families in Britain. The high profile and expensive programme would, he said, clear away "red tape and bureaucratic wrangling" to put "rocket boosters" under existing interventions. These families cost many millions of pounds in social services and the criminal justice system, but will the government investment really pay off?

The new unit oversees issues raised by the riots, including problem families, school truancy, antisocial behaviour and gangs. The programme reflects on it's first year as Louise Casey and her team travel the country - initially identifying parameters for judging who should come under the scheme, which has a budget of £448 million, or £4,000 a family, And then as they work out what kind of professional help is most effective. Radio 4 follows families like Laura's: when her Dad lost his job as a financial adviser her Mum started drinking heavily and the family fell apart. Laura got pregnant at 14, left school, moved in with a boyfriend who abused her and spent her days smoking cannabis. When her daughter was at primary school she was in trouble for anti-social behaviour on the estate and social services got involved when a known drug dealer moved into the family home. Unpicking this story and rebuilding the lives of those at the centre of it is key to the work going on here.

We accompany Louise Casey as she issues guidelines identifying families where children truant from school, create problems for neighbours and drift into crime. We assess the expectations of all those involved, from police commanders through to the families and workers on the ground. The project relies on a new approach where a single person works with parent and child to re-educate them into society's norms - initial follow-up claims a 58 percent reduction in anti-social behaviour with family intervention. Winifred Robinson looks at what happens and what lasting impact there might be in what is possibly one of the most difficult tasks undertaken in post war Britain.

Troubled families are increasingly in the news - from the summer riots, where young offenders were found to have long criminal riots, to the parents in Derbyshire charged with wiping out six of their children in a deliberate house fire: even today a two year old boy has been killed in an explosion allegedly deliberately staged by his own father. Families already forming part of Louis Casey's work include a father of ten who gave up his job when his first child was born, hasn't worked since and has recently placed three of his children aged between 11 and 7 up for adoption at the same time he's fighting social services to regain custody of a four year old taken from the couple at birth. There's also a teenage mother whose child was born with a bowel defect - her response: to put him up for adoption and get pregnant again whilst still in hospital.

Producer: Sue Mitchell.