Keynote – ‘Troubled families’ or a ‘troubling policy’? Lessons to be learnt from the Troubled Families Programme


Dr Stephen Crossley
Wednesday November 21 2018

Time: 11:30am – 12:45pm

Room: Grand Ballroom

Keynote Address

‘Troubled families’ or a ‘troubling policy’? Lessons to be learnt from the Troubled Families Programme


The UK government’s Troubled Families Programme reportedly ‘turned around’ the lives of 99% of the 120,000 ‘troubled families’ identified at the outset of the programme, and within the timescale set out by the then Prime Minister David Cameron. Now in its second phase the programme is working with 400,000 more ‘troubled families’, using a ‘persistent, assertive and challenging’ model of ‘family intervention’, which aims to co-ordinate services to work with families as a whole, rather than as individuals within the same household. The programme has, however, been beset by controversy since it was first announced in 2011.

Dr Crossley’s presentation will highlight lessons that can be learned from the programme. The focus includes consideration of the characteristics of the families that engaged with the programme and the extent to which a ‘family intervention’ approach can help to ‘turn around’ their lives. The misuses of research evidence within the programme and the gaming that occurred around the ‘Payment by Results’ model are also discussed. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of what a more inclusive and supportive service model for marginalised families might look like.

Watch the full Keynote below:


Dr Stephen Crossley is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at Northumbria University. His PhD thesis drew on interviews with practitioners to examine the implementation of the Troubled Families Programme in different local authority areas. He has published extensively on the programme, including journal articles, reports, and a book, published by Policy Press, called Troublemakers: the construction of ‘troubled families’ as a social problem’. Prior to entering academia, he worked with young people and community organisations in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the North East of England. His first book, In Their Place: The Imagined Geographies of Poverty, published by Pluto Press, was published in 2017.