The Miracle Workers

We proudly present the latest instalment in The Professor’s peerless analysis of the Troubled Families Programme (TFP).

As he has so eloquently explained previously this is a pet project of Birkenhead MP Frank Field – and therefore , of course Wirral Council !

Once again we are particularly interested in the manipulation of figures and the ‘alternative facts’ that The Professor  exposes. As ever , Wirral Council ‘was one of the more inept and careless in its manipulations.’ . However, as we know, Wirral Council have never been reluctant to spend public money on personal agendas. What we’re concerned about, especially in the context of blaming central government for their current financial woes is that the minimum cost to Wirral council tax payers for a failed programme is £6 million up to 2020.

This leads us to conclude that whilst miracles may appear in ‘The Bible’ they’re highly unlikely to appear in Godforsaken Birkenhead.

Wirral was an enthusiastic player in the 2012 – 2015, £448 million national Troubled Families Programme (TFP) to ‘turn around’ dysfunctional families accused of crime, antisocial behaviour, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, poor parenting, laziness and high welfare costs. In fact nationally 90% were not involved in crime; 97% were not having drug treatment; 88% were not alcohol dependent. The families were not criminal or lazy but ill : 75% of families had one or more members with a limiting, long standing illness or disability; 52% had one or more children with a ‘special educational needs’ statement or other special needs; 57% could not work because of a disability.

Nationally 120,000 families, who supposedly cost the state £9 billion per annum, were reprocessed in the TFP. That is a cost of £75,000 per family. On Wirral 910 families were processed in their local IFIP and 98.9% were successfully ‘turned around’. The Wirral performance was miraculous in several respects. Consider the public claims on crime, etc.

‘74% of families with a history of crime / ASB had stopped offending.’

‘95% of ASB had stopped across all families engaged…’

But on Wirral 93.5% of adults had no ASB reports at project entry.
Also we are told

‘82% of minors met the reduced offending target.’

But 84% of minors at project entry had not offended. Truly these results are miraculous are they not? Employment results were less impressive. ~75% of families were unemployed at entry. During the IFIP period only 7.1% got a job and this could not be attributed to the IFIP.

But fear not because by mid 2015 Wirral Council was claiming that the IFIP had ‘saved’ us all £76,100 per family. Since the original government total cost estimate was £75,000 per family Wirral has eliminated all family costs ! No other council in England achieved this miracle ! The savings figure was based on a sample of 180 out of 910 families. Of course this needed to be a representative, random sample of the total project families. Was it? Well 179 of the families had met the crime reduction targets and had substantial crime costs removed. That is 99.4% of the sample. But as we saw very few families were involved in crime, around 5 to 10%. The sample used to calculate cost savings and claim bounty money from the government was clearly badly biased and wildly unrepresentative of the real families and savings.

It is also a statistical miracle that the 180 family biased sample led to a savings claim within 2% of the 2012 government total cost estimate of £75,000 per family. This could not happen by chance.

But there is an even bigger miracle. The government carried out a number of local authority sampling and savings exercises from 2013 to 2015. By early 2015 the net savings reported in a 67 LA sample was a mere £3,700 per family, just 5% of the original £75,000 total cost per family. Yet somehow Wirral was still claiming, in official documents,a saving of £76,100 per family ! Wirral is unique in the country in saving 20X more than the average council ! It amounts to £68 million per year locally…if it was real. But we are not finished fellow tax payers.

In October 2016 the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee finally got to see the TFP National Evaluation (NE) reports which had been suppressed for over a year. The NE showed clearly that the local TFPs,like Wirral’s IFIP, had NO impact on crime, education, health, wellbeing, employment and benefit claiming across the country.

This result was based on direct comparison of family outcomes with matched control groups in two independent studies by a respected academic consortium commissioned by the government itself. The differences between the troubled families and the controls were tiny
and not statistically significant. The claimed 99% family ‘turn around’ was based on manipulating success criteria and local data with the encouragement of the Department for Communities and Local Government. There was no miracle. The claimed family improvements were fantasy. The claimed cost savings were also fantasy. We can be proud that our council was one of the more inept and careless in its manipulations. Tax payers should also bear in mind that our council is taking part in the useless, discredited TFP phase 2, at a minimum cost to us of £6 million to 2020.

Green/Field & The Napoleon Complex

Frank_nap

We couldn’t let  yesterday’s Parliamentary debate on the stripping “Sir” Philip Green of his title for alleged “asset stripping” pass without comment.

Whilst we witnessed Birkenhead MP Frank Field plough the fertile Green fields , what you don’t see below is the question raised by the Labour MP for Hartlepool  who asked about the role played by Green’s advisors in the BHS debacle and specifically Grant Thornton ( who also just happen to be Wirral Council’s auditors) .

Of course Frankenfield moved swiftly on – not wanting to deflect from the pantomime villainry being played out in Parliament and pursuing the frankly lame Napoleon figure comparisons. We couldn’t help commentating that it takes one to know one .

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0801xbl/thursday-in-parliament-20102016

Now I think we can all agree that “Sir” Philip Green is bad to the bone – the ugly face (and boy do we mean ugly) of capitalism. But beyond the political grandstanding is he any worse than the hypocrites in the Houses of Parliament all too ready to denounce his decadent ways?

Let’s remember , as far as we know, Green has not broken any laws . Can Frankenfield say the same ?- as far as we’re concerned he’s definitely aided and abetted one.

And let’s also remember who makes the laws  – yes that’s right MPs !. So what if  Green played fast and loose with the Companies Act – who’s fault is that?

It is well to remember that we live in a complex world and that traditional notions of good and evil no longer apply . It is your solemn duty to always, ALWAYS challenge the perceived notion of who are the good guys just as ‘The Professor ‘ reminds us in a postscript to his erudite report which we published earlier this week:

The official National Evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme
, suppressed for over a year, has just been published after threats from the House of Commons  Public Accounts Committee. The current claim locally and nationally is that over 90% of ‘families from hell’ had been ‘turned around’ from lives of crime, addiction and worklessness. But the evaluation concludes that :
‘There were no impacts identified for housing, employment and job-seeking, 
anti-social behaviour and crime, school behaviour and attendance, health, 
drug or alcohol abuse, family dynamics or well-being.’
Neither was there any reduction in family benefits claimed… no money was 
saved. Yet Coalition and current government claims are that 99% of evil families
were successfully ‘turned around’ and £1.2 billion pounds was ‘saved’. In March 
2015 the minister responsible, Eric Pickles, bragged about this TFP ‘triumph’ and 
several MPs rose to congratulate him…and to remind him that sanctions based 
Family Intervention was a New Labour invention. Guess who joined in? Yes, that 
hounder of the undeserving poor, Frank Field. He said
‘On behalf of my constituents, many of whom now have a more peaceful existence, 
may I also, through him, thank the front line workers who have brought about 
these changes? …[Locally] there were other scallywags who could not be bothered 
to feed their children.’
                                                           Hansard, March 10th 2015 , column 163
Recall that a majority of these families living in poverty had serious mental and physical 
illnesses and disabilities but only ~6% of adults had ASB reports before project entry. 
Only 1.2% of children had ABCs. More to the point perhaps, the official report found 
no evidence for reductions in the already low incidence of crime or ASB or 
truanting  yet Frank says ‘many’ of his constituents now have ‘a more  peaceful 
existence’. Clearly Frank is hallucinating yet again. Perhaps Frank is ‘troubled’ and 
needs help? If he had a family we could sign him up to the TFP phase 2 which locally 
will cost us several million pounds …but the official evidence says it would do him, 
or any others among the local ‘troubled’, absolutely no good at all. 
  
                                                                                        The Professor

 

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……..