Bernie The Bruiser Plays The Blame Game

Bernie in White

Bernie’s glare makes grown men weep.

The latest instalment in the scandalous Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case which is mainly being played out by press release to the Liverpool Echo involves the new Cabinet lead for Children’ Services and also the new- frighteningly – Deputy Leader of the Council, Bernie Mooney.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/warning-more-heads-roll-wirral-13054956

Anyway Bernie the Bruiser has gone all gung ho on us and told us that she ” will leave no stone unturned” in finding out how opportunities were missed to protect young girls from abuse and “if that means heads will roll ,so be it”

Oh give over,love, we all know that’s never going to happen with Wirral Council’s senior managers . As we can see from the ‘resignation’ of  Director of Children’s Services, Julia Hassall . Now in the real world ,if someone resigns , they resign and go on to ‘greater challenges’, ‘spend time with their long suffering family’ or take up gardening/golf/alcoholism  and that’s the end of it. Not with Wirral  Council . Oh no – ‘resignees’  get a pay off to make sure that none of the culpability for myriad failures can lead back to the self serving power elite. Somewhat like a slug trail. Yes, best put the stone back in place and keep the slugs out of the glare of the sun. Has anyone noticed that after all the high profile departures in the officer ranks these past few years (and at our expense) that the same old incompetent,dishonest and corrupt councillors are still running the show?

And as for the claim that ‘heads will roll’  – that caused our eyes to roll.  Because if Bernie the Bruiser was true to her word she’d have her Labour colleague Cllr Moira McLaughlin’s head on the chopping block for starters. We have to await the publication of the forthcoming Serious Case Review into the CSE horror story to find out where agencies and which particular personnel let abused girls down.

However we know already that there has undoubtedly been a failure of scrutiny by Wirral Council. We also know that the Serious Case Review goes back to a time when their governance arrangements were found to be wanting  and which contributed to a series of damning reports involving Adult Social Services. So what did subsequent administrations decide? – give the scrutiny of BOTH Adult Social Services and Children’s Social Services to the political lead previously responsible for failing vulnerable adults. Step forward Matron McLaughlin! You really couldn’t make this shit up!

Told You So

Accordingly might we suggest that Bernie the Bruiser needs to go easy with the threats for now because if she’s  prepared to  batter already battered staff into submission and play the blame game she needs to ensure that the stone she’s unturning doesn’t get chucked back at her.

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Child Sexual Exploitation – No Alarms and No Surprises, Please.

No Alarms

An horrific Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case in Birkenhead finally hits the headlines. The case involves lengthy jail sentences for two Sri Lankan brothers found guilty of the systematic  rape and abuse of girls aged 14 and 15. The full story can be found here :

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15287059.Brothers_jailed_for_40_years_for_child_sexual_exploitation_of_vulnerable_young_girls_in_Wirral/

Now, as we know, the culpability for these vile acts lies with the perpetrators. However we have to ask ,once again, where were the various agencies responsible for safeguarding vulnerable children ?

The fact that Cabinet lead for Children’s Services Cllr Tony Smith has been relieved of his position ( nobody gets ‘sacked’ at Wirral Council) and Julia Hassall – Head of Children’s Services has resigned, suggests that as far as Wirral Council are concerned there are questions to be answered (aren’t there always?)

But do you know what makes us want to bite our knuckles in sheer frustration and anger is the way that rampant reputation management rules all at Wirral Council!

Wirral Council knew (as did we) that there was every likelihood that reporting restrictions would be lifted on this case today. So what is their first priority? –  that’s right get the Liverpool Echo to run a story on Sunday afternoon that council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies had used his ‘strong leader powers’ to suddenly oust Cllr Tony Smith from his Cabinet. So Cllr Smith takes one for the team and is the fall guy ,the patsy for this latest horrorshow. This was followed today with the long overdue resignation of Head of Children’s Services, Julia Hassall.

Of course this all goes back to the publication of a damning Ofsted report last September which had us apoplectic here at Leaky Towers . With our usual prescience we wrote at the time  –  ‘And inevitably what we have witnessed today is the first instalment of an exercise in damage limitation and reputation management for which Wirral Council is so well known  with a carefully controlled ‘leak’ to the Liverpool Echo.’

You may also recall that Hassall claimed there were ‘no surprises’ in the Ofsted report.

What? – did you think Ofsted wouldn’t notice or if they did you could dupe Wirral councillors that everything was hunky dory – for as we know that’s what council officers have been doing for years.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/the-big-lie/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/the-pain-of-failure/

We have expressed the view that the Council’s No. 1 priority is the protection of vulnerable people (and particularly children).  They have failed us and more importantly, the vulnerable, time and time again.

This is, among other failures, a monumental failure of scrutiny (another thing we’ve been banging on about for years) .

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/told-you-so/

We can recall the denial when opposition councillors tried to ask questions about CSE on Wirral and being soothingly reassured by Wirral Council’s Safeguarding Lead ‘ Simpering’ Simon Garner that they need not worry themselves as they’d got it covered. We can also recall the ‘faux outrage’ from councillors whenever comparisons to CSE in Rochdale or Rotherham were mentioned. Consequently the approach from council officers is not to  alarm the councillors as they might get a bit upset that there are sexually exploitative people out there!

We assert  that the denial of the problem by agencies responsible for safeguarding is a major contributor to the continuation and prevalence of CSE. Perhaps Wirral’s Safeguarding Board would do well to check out  ‘Three Girls’ a 3 part series running this week Tuesday-Thursday on BBC1 at 9pm which covers the Rochdale CSE scandal. They might actually learn something.

Finally  we’d like to go back to our original ‘ The Big Lie’ post where we called for the resignation of CEO Eric Robinson  , Head of Children’s Services  Julia Hassall , Corporate Safeguarding Manager  Simon Garner ,  Council Leader Phil Davies ,Children Services Lead Cllr Tony Smith, People Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chair Cllr Moira McLaughlin

Two out of six ain’t bad  (although we should have added Hassall’s manager Clare Fish into the roll call of shame) – but it’s not enough.

The vulnerable people of Wirral deserve better. Indeed, we all do.

A Very Troubled Council

 

cllr-tony-smith

Cllr Tony ‘Trouble’  Smith

We understand that at last night’s Extraordinary Meeting of Wirral Council that there were several calls for various heads to roll in the aftermath of the Ofsted Inspection Report. Prominent among them being Cllr Tony Smith the Labour Cabinet lead for Children’s Services.

It didn’t happen of course due to both a lack of  opposition votes and also seemingly a lack of shame.  

It seems that much of the criticism levelled at Cllr Tony Smith is that with his soothing,lilting,lovely Irish brogue he has reassured councillors that everything  was fine ,to be sure , so it is, when talking about how well the council was doing when it came to safeguarding vulnerable children. 

But it clearly wasn’t doing well at all, at all – and he and others knew it!.

And so this now turns out to be a  further manifestation of what Ofsted politely call  “a culture of over-optimism” and what we identified almost exactly 3 years ago as ‘The Pollyanna Principle’ with its prime proponent being Council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies :

POWER BOY PIP & THE POLLYANNA PRINCIPLE *

How timely then that it has been brought to our attention that  Cllr Tony Smith has a history of making statements that are not merely “over -optimistic”  but considering his position – misleading,manipulative and irresponsible.

Our regular learned contributor ‘The Professor’ informs us that an official (leaked) report has concluded that the Troubled Family Programme delivered zero improvements in families nationally and reminds us :

Last year I reported on the false claims by the Council of a ‘huge success’ in ‘turning around’ local families from hell in the Troubled Families Programme. It turned out those claims were false. Now we learn that a leaked, independent government sponsored report by Ecorys confirms and extends these conclusions nationally. But let’s remind ourselves of the Wirral Council claims first. Cllr. Tony Smith declared in March 2015 at the TFP celebrations, that

                            ‘we have seen a hugely successful outcome…’

 What actually happened? Well initially 74% of our families had workless adults. At project end just 2.6% had gained an adult with a job, or 24 in total.  The local project processed 910 families compared with 118,000 nationally. The national cost of the TFP phase 1 was ~£615 million so average cost per family was £5.2K. Our cost share would be £4.72 million. We can see that each job gained cost us ~£197,000. Is that good value? However in addition it was claimed that 77% of the Wirral troubled families had met the ‘crime / ASB / education’ target. Surely a big reduction in crime or antisocial behaviour is worth something? Except that 93.5% of adults and 89.6% of children had not been involved in ASB at project entry!  84 % of minors had not been involved in offences! Only 1.2% of the children had an ASBO or ABC!. It turns out that the 77% number is phoney and, to the extent it measures anything, that is a modest reduction in school absences, not criminality.

The Professor’s full report to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee : Troubled Families Inquiry 2016 can be read here : https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxrkIjRDgrB-ODJLNjYyY2trNVQwZThoMkxXVm1GNW5pVjBJ

Not only are we troubled that last year this was presented as a good news story ‘The Professor’ also suggests our local cost share of TFP phase 2 could be ~£7 million with NO  prospect of any benefits delivery at all except more populist political hate spin on the poorest (mainly ill) ‘families from hell’.
But of course you won’t be reading about any of this in Wirral Council’s forthcoming publication Wirral Today nor sadly it would seem about the resignation of Cllr Tony Smith……..  

 

The Big Lie

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it..”

There will be no wacky pictures, no funny puns and we won’t be referencing the above quote (if you don’t know it – Google it). This post will be fuelled by anger and frustration.

Anger and frustration at the news that there is a yet another damning report about Wirral Council in the pipeline. This time it’s an Ofsted report concerned with Children’s Services.

Eagle -eyed Leaks readers will have noted from previous posts and comments that we knew this was on the horizon. And inevitably what we have witnessed today is the first instalment of an exercise in damage limitation and reputation management for which Wirral Council is so well known  with a carefully controlled ‘leak’ to the Liverpool Echo.

Now if Liverpool Echo want to be Liptrotsky’s lapdog that’s between them , their advertising revenue and their tawdry ‘exclusives’. But it doesn’t mean we’re buying their bullshit and it doesn’t mean that most of us don’t know what Wirral Council are up to.

Sorry – you may have noticed but we can’t get worked up about bins or dog crap at Leaky Towers when we get confirmation that Wirral Council is failing to safeguard children and meet their educational needs.

The most damning indictment of  any  local authority is that the safety and life choices of our most vulnerable are compromised. Of course we’ve been here before with this wretched Council haven’t we?. Just as we’ve heard the platitudes and the promises dribbling out of the mouths of Council Leader and his Chief Executive when they’ve been rumbled.

I think we can all agree that the risible ‘Most Improved Council in Britain’ tag can finally be consigned to history – we note that it is conspicuously absent from Wirral Council correspondence we’ve recently received. Yes that’s right – Wirral Council have been directly in touch  with us for the very first time. But more about that another time.

I suppose we shall have to wait for the intervention of interfering Birkenhead MP Frank Field making demands for the resignation of those responsible for the findings in the upcoming report, just like he did in the past with former Wirral Council CEO Steve Maddox and  Director of Children’s Services Howard Cooper. Both of whom were rewarded for their varied and manifest failings with an OBE.

Or perhaps not. Field will no doubt play his part in perpetuating  ‘The Big Lie’.

So we’ll do it for him instead –   CEO Eric Robinson  , Head of Children’s Services  Julia Hassall , Corporate Safeguarding Manager  Simon Garner ,  Council Leader Phil Davies ,Children Services Lead Cllr Tony Smith, People Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chair Cllr Moira McLaughlin  – RESIGN NOW

Cabinet of Curiosities

Cabinet of Curiosities

Following the local elections Wirral Council “leader” Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies has had a Cabinet reshuffle. But let’s face it judged by his awkward public performances he’s always fiddling with his drawers.

However – out goes Welsh windbag Cllr Adrian Jones having mainly served his purpose of pretending to support whistleblowers and giving his former Cabinet colleagues the heads up about where the next bombshell might be  coming. He must be so proud.

Also tossed aside is Cllr Chris Meaden , who as we commented this week seems to have been thrown under the bus by Power Boy Pip over the Passport for Life leisure pass fiasco . Her (personal) involvement in the Control Room debacle probably didn’t help either….

So what are we left with when it comes to the big decision makers affecting the quality of life for people on Wirral ?.

Read this and weep:

“Leader” , Strategic Economic Development , Finance & Devolution – Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies

You know what they say about a man with a big portfolio don’t you?. Yes! –  that’s right he’s hiding behind important titles to make him sound “bigger” than he is.

Deputy Leader of the Labour Group , Transformation , Leisure & Culture – Ann McLachlan

Talk about one trick pony. If this woman says “moving forward” one more time she’s going to blow the turret off Leaky Towers (and no that isn’t a euphemism). As for “culture” – somebody needs to tell her that doesn’t mean drinking a pro-biotic yoghurt every morning.

Deputy Leader of The Council, Housing & Community Safety – George Davies 

Well,well ,well. No Cabinet would be complete without Georgie-boy would it?. Old faithful. The runaround. The go-between.The fixer.

We look forward to the day when Power Boy Pip  is indisposed and Gorgeous George has to command the authority of the Council chamber without putting on his glasses and reading from his notes (written in crayon).

Adult Social Care – Chris Jones

Sadly as her husband has been ousted from the cabinet Welsh Windbag-ess Chris Jones will no longer be able to regale us with her rendition of Amy Winehouse’s classic ” Me & Mr.Jones”.

However her continuing appointment as a cabinet member after the Girtrell Court still has us singing “what kind of fuckery is this?”.

Children & Family Services – Tony Smith

Love the Irish lilt. Hate his role in the closure of Lyndale School. He probably does too. But he’s still in the cabinet. These are the choices people make in life. Again , he must be so proud.

Highways & Infrastructure – Stuart Whittingham 

The big question is whether Stuart “Witless” Whittingham knows what “infrastructure” means. Remember this is guy who spawned a jokes about streetlights and how many people does it take a change a lightbulb on Wirral.

Answer : lots of them and and great cost and only after being highlighted (pun intended) on this blog and elsewhere.

Environment – Bernie Mooney 

Bernie sees it as her personal duty to be publicly affronted by absolutely everything from the Tory government to fly-tipping to litter to dog crap.

But mainly dog crap. Because that’s where the votes are.

Public Health – Janette Williamson

Congrats to Janette “Milly Tant” Williamson at getting a cabinet seat for being gushingly enthusiastic about absolutely everything Wirral Council does.

There is the added advantage she can advise on matters related to the elderly – such as euthanising members of the royal family and in the case of money owed to the council Jan would have no trouble recommending sending in the bailiffs mainly because that’s who she used to “work” for. So much for being a champion of the poor and oppressed!.

Community Engagement & Communications  – Matthew Patrick    Martin Liptrot

Enough said.

 

Troubled Minds

Frank and Cameron 2

Wirral’s ‘Troubled’ Families Project

‘As an ever increasing number of families become dysfunctional

an ever increasing supply of socially offensive individuals results’

Frank Field MP -‘Neighbours From Hell’

‘They [the troubled families] are the source of a large proportion of the problems

in society. Drug addiction. Alcohol abuse. Crime. A culture of disruption

and irresponsibility that cascades through the generations…a small number

of these families cost an extraordinary amount of money’’

David Cameron MP Oldbury Speech; 2011

This is the story of how central governments and compliant local authorities like Wirral, have wasted vast sums of tax payer money in failing to ‘re-programme’ poor, vulnerable families in the underclass via ineffective, sanctions led, interventions. There is a very long history in this country of the middle class political establishment defining the poorest elements of the underclass as ‘folk devils’: costly nuisances, threats to social and ‘moral’ stability and even as an existential threat to racial purity and survival.

‘Some [of the underclass families] are of low intelligence, most of low educational attainment. The balance of our population, our human stock, is threatened’ Sir Keith Joseph intellectual godfather of Thatcherism; 1974

In the early 20th century such thinking led to an active eugenics movement in western democracies justifying the sterilisation or confinement of social misfits including unmarried mothers, the disabled, beggars, homosexuals, addicts, prostitutes and problem children. Herr Hitler, learning from the eugenic engineers of the democracies, spun the unacceptable cost of the disabled German ‘useless mouths’ and with the help of doctors and the local authorities, quietly began to murder disabled children and adults. By 1942 all were gone. The SS Aktion Gruppe T4, who had developed the necessary murder technology, then went on to new triumphs at Belsen and Auschwitz.

Of course today we would not countenance such horrors…would we? Yet the underclass is still projected as a major threat …’crime, drug and alcohol addiction’…’a culture of disruption’…’socially offensive individuals’…’scroungers’…’benefit cheats’…’ASBO yobs’…’families from hell’: familiar descriptors in the propaganda of the last four governments.

By denigrating ‘troubled families’, the last and current governments have eliminated any sympathy for these people, justifying harsh, sanctions based, interventions against them and general reductions in unemployment, sickness, working tax credit, and child tax credit benefits. Now, in summer 2015, we find that the Conservatives will limit child related benefits to two children. Are we seeing here the rebirth of eugenics motivated social policies? After all, why should we fund their ‘lifestyle choices’? Our very own Frank Field has proposed combating poverty by sending poor,’ irresponsible’ parents who can’t budget, who supposedly spend money on non-essentials and so fail to feed their children, to the Troubled Families Projects for re-programming.  In fact we will see that the families targeted for ‘The Troubled Families Programme’ have ‘lifestyles’ which heavily feature long standing physical and mental illnesses, genuine inability to work and children with learning disabilities. These are families in hell, not families from hell. Very few are criminal; very few are drug or alcohol addicted, despite the false claims of Cameron. We will also see how the public has been shamefully hoodwinked by equally false claims of project success in ‘turning families around’ and saving money. We will use data obtained from the official Dept. for Communities & Local Government website and Freedom of Information Act requests to Wirral Council and the government.

Nationally 120,000 families were targeted, supposedly for being lazy, criminal drug addicts but actually for having multiple forms of deprivation. In Wirral 910 were targeted. In the TFP local authorities like Wirral were paid a bounty of £3,200 for each family signed up. Additional bounties were paid by results. That is for

* an adult who gains continuous work for 6 months                                        £800

* a family meeting the ‘crime/ anti-social behaviour/ education’ target            £700

So what did the Wirral project achieve? Overall locally, 910 families were ‘reprogrammed’.

In March 2015 a conference at the New Brighton Floral Pavilion ‘celebrated’ the ‘remarkable success’ in ‘turning around’ the lives of these families. Cllr. Tony Smith, Cabinet Member for Children & Family Services, said (in www. wirral.gov.uk/news/17-03-2015)

We have seen a hugely successful outcome thanks to close partnership working between public sector bodies and Wirral families’

The close working partnership included ‘assertive, non-negotiable interventions’ and ‘tough sanctions’ for non-cooperation. The government has repeatedly stressed the role of sanctions e.g.

‘Sanctions are key. The threat of sanctions and the use of sanctions provide both a way of curbing bad behaviour and also a lever for persuading people to co-operate fully

…families need an intensive, persistent and if necessary coercive approach’

This approach was applied to the many families with mental health problems and learning disabled children as we will see. The council claimed that

‘67% of participants re-engaged with or stayed in employment, education or training in 2013/14…’

Er?…clearly those who stayed in work, or education, or training  may have done so without project interventions. In fact at entry 74% of households were workless. The key question is: how many families got somebody back into work over the duration of the project? The answer is 2.6%. Of course these people may have got jobs anyway without the project. It would have been useful to know what % got a job in the year before project entry, would it not? However no such data is collected in the TF projects. Neither are there any control groups of similar families run in parallel with the projects which would have provided a solid baseline. Strictly speaking, as the DfC&LG admits in the appendices of it’s reports, out of sight of the media, claimed family changes cannot objectively be attributed to the project interventions. Even if we accept the 2.6% change in employment this leaves 71.4% of households workless. Can this truthfully be described as ‘hugely successful’?  Surely our Council is either shamefully careless and numerically incompetent in its reporting or deliberately lying to tax payers? Surely either explanation is unacceptable?

The Council claim is that family turn around in the ‘crime / anti-social behaviour / education’ arena was also a great success. We are told of a

‘95% reduction of ASB across all families engaged with the service’

In fact, for the Wirral, the DfC&LG database tells us that 77.2% of the families had met the ‘crime/ASB/education’ improvement target …not quite 95% but still an apparently impressive result. However there is a slight problem. My FoIA request to Wirral Council yielded additional data. It turns out that at project entry 93.5% of adults had no reports of ASB; 89.6% of children had no reports of ASB; 87% of minors had no proven offences; only 1.2% of the children had an ASBO or Acceptable Behaviour Contract. By the way local authorities were not obliged to record the frequency and severity of supposed ASB. The pattern is similar across the country. This is surely a long way from government spin that all our families are criminal and anti-social.

So how can we explain the claim that 95% or 77.2% of families had met the ‘crime / ASB/ education’ target?  If most had no ASB or crime to start with the ‘turn around’ must be in educational issues. We find that 13% of children had three or more temporary exclusions from school at entry. 42% of children had 15% or more unauthorised absences in three school terms. It appears that our Wirral project reduced truancy…a useful result surely? However looking at the official success criteria we discover that a ‘turned around’ child could be regularly absent for 1 day in 7 and still be claimed as a success ! A child could have fixed exclusions at 66% of his entry rate and still be claimed as a success ! By the way the work and crime cluster claims were based on a period of only six months. Cllr. Smith transformed this into ‘effects’ lasting into ‘future generations’. I suggest these are rather low success thresholds for claiming Smith’s ‘hugely successful outcome’ on behalf of the Council.

Perhaps more importantly, by reporting ‘success’ for the ‘crime / ASB / education’ aggregated cluster, a deliberately false impression is given to the public of high initial levels of crime and ASB in the families then successfully reduced by the projects. In fact what has been achieved is a modest, partial reduction in truancy. There is rather a big difference between adult crime and truancy.  Coupled with the mere 2.6% claimed fall in unemployment the TF project results for Wirral are ‘remarkable’ only for the way the tax payer has been misled by the Council and nationally by the government. The Council also proudly records the praise of Louise Casey, the Troubled Families Tsar, who told them it was

‘a fantastic performance’ from a ‘tremendous team’

Given the actual results in Wirral this is an astonishing conclusion, but then Casey has a long history of fantastical outbursts, recommending ministers to come into work ‘pissed’ and threatening to ‘deck’ anybody at No. 10 if they mention ‘evidence based policy one more time’. (This was at a Home Office / ACPO formal dinner in 2006 when she was Blair’s Respect Tsar, as reported by what she calls the ‘friggin Guardian’; see below).

Let’s look at costs. Cameron claimed that the 120,000 troubled families nationally cost the state a horrific £9 billion per annum. The promise was made that the TF Programme would eliminate these costs. So how much was saved? Supposedly by March 2015 117,910 families had been processed. 8.9% allegedly met the employment criterion (compared with 2.6% in Wirral). 80.6% met the ‘crime / ASB / education’ criterion (compared with 77% in Wirral). The average family allegedly cost a computed £26,000 per annum to support at project entry based on benefits, social service costs and criminal justice system costs. Conveniently this was also the total benefits cap set by the Coalition government. The DfC&LG claims that £11,200 per annum per family was saved by the projects giving a total of £1.18 billion per annum. However these are not delivered savings but hypothetical estimates based on complex assumptions about sustained changes in family behaviour into the future. Remember the ‘changes’ had only been monitored for six months while the families were under close supervision. Many years of evidence on previous family intervention projects suggests a rapid decay when support is removed. Also please note that local authority data on ‘success’ was not audited by any outside body and the project data are not recognised as official government statistics. The reader may find all this highly suspicious but I could not possibly comment!

You will recall that Cameron claimed that £9 billion, not the highly doubtful £1.2 billion, would be saved. This was noticed in some places. On March 10th 2015 Eric Pickles, Communities Minster, reported to the House of Commons on the TFP ‘triumph’. He was challenged by Hilary Benn MP about the claims. He replied

‘ The Rt. Hon. Gentleman made a number of points on how we can demonstrate success and square the £1.2 billion [savings] with the £9 billion [we promised]…this is notoriously difficult territory because governments of all types are absolutely terrible at measuring outcomes’

And I suggest, normally good at deliberately stacking the deck to maximise the appearance of policy outcome success. Even so £1.2 billion is a long way from £9 billion …even with fiddled data. This time the state was tripped up by its own spin and lies. Look at the data released again. The average saving per family was £11,200 compared with a £26,000 starting cost. This means that the remaining cost per family is 26,000 – 11,200 = £14,800 per annum. This is 56.9% of the starting cost. But 89.5% of families were ‘turned around’. Does this mean that the 10.5% of unreformed families now carry 56.9% of the starting costs? In fact it tells us that the ‘turn around’ criteria’ are not strongly linked to the actual costs generated by the families. Remember that only 8.9% of families got a member back into work. We can also show that success on the ‘crime / ASB / education’ criterion has little effect on costs. For example, nationally only 10% of adults had a proven offence. In Wirral only 6.5% of adults had an ASB report.

So where do the costs that lead to the £26,000 per annum troubled family total come from? We know that the average troubled family has 1.7 adults and 2.5 children. DfC&LG survey data tells us that the children had high levels of disability and illnesses. 39% had a statement of special educational needs; 33% had a mental health problem; 19% had a long standing physical illness; 46% of families had one or more adults with a mental health problem; 33% of adults had a long standing illness; 83% of families received out of work benefits; 97% were in social housing or temporary accommodation. These are very poor, very sick families. If we consult the various state benefit websites we can enter the average demographics and health profiles for our families and calculate the benefit and service costs they would attract. Depending on assumptions we get a range of £21,000 to £29,000 per annum. This compares with the claimed average cost of £26,000 per troubled family. My calculation did not include an estimate of criminal justice system costs for the 10% of adults who had at some time offended. The match is still good.

The bulk of our families are costly because they are unemployed, with chronically, physically and mentally ill adults, and larger than average numbers of children, many of whom are learning disabled and ill. If the families cannot work and many children are disabled it is difficult to see how a significant reduction in the average £26,000 cost could be achieved other than by stopping unemployment and the additional benefits currently associated with those disabled children. Threats, sanctions and parenting classes delivered by the Troubled Families Projects cannot affect these costs in any significant way. The TFPs are simply a cynical fraud on the public. However, the harsh denigration of the families opens the way to justifying drastic cuts in current benefits as we are beginning to see. Even so the government’s £9 billion savings target is a fantasy figure…unless sterilisation, euthanasia and other eugenic measures are indeed back on the table for a significant section of the underclass. This Conservative government’s aim now is to re-programme a further 400,000 troubled families.

Let’s go back to Cameron’s spin and compare it with what we have learned.

‘They [the troubled families] are the source of a large proportion of the problems in society. Drug addiction. Alcohol abuse. Crime. A culture of disruption and irresponsibility that cascades through the generations. A small number of these families cost an extraordinary amount of money.’

Surely any state action against such people is justified? Yes, they cost a lot, but they are long term unemployed with remarkably high levels of chronic physical and mental illness and learning disability in the children, as the official data show. But aren’t they are also criminals with irresponsible life styles? The DfC&LG national evaluation of the families tells us that only 3% of adults in the families had been treated for non-prescription drug dependency; only 3% had been treated for alcohol dependency; 90% of adults had not offended; 93.5% of adults had no ASB; 89.6% of children had no ASB; the under 18 conception rate was only 2%.  We shrug off political rhetoric and spin these days …politicians lie, that’s all…but in this case that lying rhetoric has lethal consequences for vulnerable, poor families across the country.

One more time, let’s say again that the Troubled Families Programme has not worked and cannot work. In fact let’s listen to Louise Casey, Cameron’s Troubled Families Tsar, who was also Blair’s ASBO and Respect Tsar and who ran the state family intervention apparatus for many years and still does

‘As hard as it is to accept, the truth is despite our best efforts over many years – and I include myself in that – we just haven’t got it right. We haven’t succeeded in getting these families to change or in stopping the transmission of problems from generation to generation – we just haven’t’

Casey came clean privately at the Reform right wing think tank on 12.06.14. So there you have it from the horse’s mouth. In public her stance on these vulnerable, sick, helpless families was

We should be talking about things like shame and guilt …we have lost the ability to be judgmental because we worry about being seen as nasty to poor people’

Her boss, Eric Pickles, was of a like mind

‘We have sometimes run away from categorising, stigmatising, laying blame. We need a less understanding approach’

Since Pickles had over a decade of evidence at his disposal and commissioned the national survey of troubled families characteristics he was well aware of their true nature. Pickles and Casey deserve the highest level of contempt from anyone who believes government is obliged to tell the truth to citizens; anyone with an ounce of compassion.

So what did this latest farce cost us nationally and locally? The central government TFP cost was £462 million to date with local authorities spending an additional £153 million.

The pro-rated cost for a project of Wirral’s scale with 910 families would be £4.75 million. Was a modest reduction in truancy and getting less than 24 adults back into work for 6 months,that is at £198,000 per job, good value for money? Cllr. Smith remember, calls all this ‘a hugely successful outcome’. By the way Smith et al were only celebrating ‘phase 1’ at the Floral Pavilion. Nationally ‘phase 2’ will re-programme a further 400,000 families at a cost of £800 million to £1.6 billion. If Wirral processes the same share of families as in phase 1 it will cost the local tax payer a minimum of £6.2 million up to £12.3 million. Do you really want to spend this money on a discredited, abusive, politically motivated, voodoo social engineering project?

Wirral Council cannot use the Nuremberg defence: I was only following orders. Phase 1 of the TFP was voluntary. Like many councils Wirral was seduced by the easy money of a £3,200 bounty for just signing up a family. Phase 2 pays only £1,000 up front and appears to be compulsory. The administrative load in data gathering and reporting will be much higher, costing us more locally. Wirral chose to dance with the Devil and now the tax payers here will pay for the second, grander dance.

At the same time the National Children’s Bureau, using the Freedom of Information Act, has discovered that funding for ‘early intervention’ on children needing help, has fallen from £3.18 billion in 2010/11 to £1.44 billion in 2014/15, a fall of 54.8%. Many scientifically valid studies (unlike the invalid TFP evaluations), including the Allen Reviews, have demonstrated the cost effectiveness of real clinical / educational interventions. For example the Centre for Mental Health in February 2015 found that school based treatment aimed at ‘conduct disorders’ (yes, the mentally disordered kids from our families excluded from school) cost ~£108 per child but later returned nearly £3,000 per child ‘turned around’. Tackling aggressive adolescents returned less than £27,700 per child for a treatment cost of £1,260. There is also much evidence that simple changes in nutrition can have massive positive effects on child behaviour. But with current family benefit cuts and sanctions this government is moving in exactly the wrong direction to improve child behaviour and learning. Let us hope that the local food banks can blunt some of the inevitable child malnutrition. There is also growing evidence that damaging epigenetic factors related to childhood deprivation can indeed ‘cascade through the generations’.

If multi-generational deprivation, not ‘irresponsibility’, has cursed our families’ genes then Cameron’s demonising comments become even more offensive and misguided.

This has been a short summary of the current position. If the reader wants to know more about the history of failed intervention in ASB, dysfunctional, chaotic, troubled families and the evidence for how we can help these families through professional medical interventions, remedial education and improved nutrition, please see

‘Troubled Families: State Lies, Demonisation and Voodoo Social Engineering’, David P Gregg; Green Man Books 2015; ISBN 978 – 1514170588.

If you wish to learn more about New Labour thinking on dysfunctional families, which started eighteen years of abuse, the hysterical role of Frank Field MP in that thinking,and the rational counter-arguments against it, please see

‘Politicians From Hell’, David P Gregg; Green Man Books 2015; ISBN 978 – 1507610275.

See also ‘Uncle Frank’s Hunger Games’ on Wirral Leaks.