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June 11, 2012



I think you are reading far too much into this.

The 120,000 figure comes from 8 years ago. Brown used to bandy this number around in speeches.

I suspect the likes of Pickles, who has been a local councillor for years, thinks a figure of 120,000 is a reasonable national estimate based on his actual knowledge of Bradford.

Account Deleted

This looks like the definition of a market segment. The dubious figures (including the supposed 9bn a year cost of the "trouble") are the sort of evidence-light nonsense you'd get in a commercial business plan.

The BBC report you link to says: "The government is diverting £448m from existing departmental budgets over four years to help pay for a network of people who will identify families in need of help". This in turn links to an ESRC report that notes: "Local authorities and privately-contracted agencies will be paid by results ... Originally, this programme was to be headed up by Emma Harrison" (of A4e fame).

The eliding of troubled with troubling, and the precision of the 120k figure, is presumably intended to build support for this cash disbursement. It is easier to sell an intervention against "known families" rather than poverty in general.

There is also the implication that a course of treatment can "turn these families around", which is less obviously the case where the cause of the trouble is external factors, such as involuntary unemployment, or intractable problems, such as mental illness or ill-health.

Chris Purnell

Pickles was pressed quite hard by Justin Webb on BBC this morning over the 120,000. He was shifty and evasive even claiming that it was a 'detail'. He was even less sure of the 'eligibility' for inclusion in the 120,000. As Webb rightly pointed out if poverty was the principal defining concept then being troubled was merely an additional feature. They really do think that managerialism is plausible. Perhaps they should get a copy of Dillow's book to put them right.


eck, I'm afraid it's worst than that, sure the numbers are very hazy, but the activities in pilot authorities are pretty much pushing for positive interventions to lift troubled families out of the mire and set them on a better path. Either Pickles doesn't know this, or more likely the public stuff is for the tabloids, looking to present them as tough on hell neighbours, knowing full well this isn't what they are actually setting up...

Andrew Ramponi

On poverty, Benjamin Franklin reckoned there was truth in the even then old saying, "It is hard to get an empty sack to stand up".

Diego Villamizar

Conservatism versión 21st century... "An obvious possibility is that this government thinks that being poor is itself a moral failure"


So glad to hear someone else saying what I've been saying for the past few days in the comment sections of newspaper articles - I'm utterly outraged!

The Economic and Social Research Council stated; "In the term 'troubled families' it deliberately conflates families experiencing multiple disadvantage and families that cause trouble."

This conflation is dangerously insidious. For example - even for someone who's outraged, there's the temptation to say "yes a lot of 'these' families ARE poor, but being poor doesn't make you criminal" (the all cod are fish but not all fish are cod type of argument) but even then you've fallen into a trap, (a cleverly placed trap - as you'd be a fool to deny that social deprivation can have its pitfalls) as I strongly feel that this is not a class issue. The majority of poor people whom I've known (who would fit the criteria on the list) are in no way anti-social. Sure I've come across some horrible nightmare poor families (I live in 'the north' and have spent years living in some highly impoverished areas) yet most poor people I've met do not behave in a threatening or aggressive manner.

I will say though, that when I was in Cambridge, I met thugs and bullies who were from the privileged classes (in fact wasn't Cameron himself, part of a gang that used to perpetrate highly anti-social behavior?) That doesn't mean that I would conflate rich people with boorish oiks!


I was speaking to someone from my local Council a few weeks ago. They have 621 Troubled families, so they are told. They have no idea who these people are but they do have an exact number that they need to find.


I am not so politically concerned and I guess that is why I have not commented so far on your so insightful posts! I love how you definited yourself and am highly respecting the fact that you are expressing your stance freely on here! I was really touched by this post though, because nothing aggravates me more than dividing people in such categories, according to criteria set by someone!And am agree that this division is equal to abusement!

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