Keep up-to-date with drugs and crime

The latest research, policy, practice and opinion on our criminal justice and drug & alcohol treatment systems


This section of the literature review contains studies which focus on payment by results interventions tackling troubled families or people with complex needs. It also includes some studies relating to early intervention work generally with children and/or families.

The Department for Communities and Local Government launched the Troubled Families programme worth £448m over 3 years (and subsequently extended for a further £200m over 5 years) to help “turn around” families with multiple problems with local authorities rewarded for effective interventions via a PbR approach.

For each study, I provide the full reference, a link to the document if available freely online and a one sentence summary.

Studies are presented in order of publication; most recent first.

Studies which I regard as of high quality or of particular interest are highlighted in bold.

You can jump to the seven other sections of research here:



Jonathan Portes, one of the lead authors of the Troubled Families evaluation, explains in a personal blog how the Troubled Families programme was a policy disaster (18 October 2016)

National evaluation of the Troubled Families programme finally published (17 October 2016). Seven reports with conflicting findings.

Crossley, S. (2015) The troubled families programme: the perfect social policy? Centre for Crime and Justice Studies: Briefing 13, November, 2015.

Sceptical analysis of the Troubled Families programme, arguing (with good cause) that the near 100% claimed success rate is too good to be true.

McNeil, Clare & Hunter, Jack. (2015) Breaking boundaries: towards a “troubled lives” program for people facing multiple and complex needs. London: Institute for Public Policy Research. See my summary here.

Recommends replicating troubled families programme for individuals with multiple and complex problems: “troubled lives”. Recommends keeping PbR but focusing on area outcomes (reduced demand for crisis services), rather than individual service user outcomes.

Revolving Doors Agency (2015) Adding Value? Reflections on payment by results for people with multiple and complex needs.

A good exploration of the particular challenges of PbR schemes for this client group with a set of clear recommendations. See my summary here.

Hoggett, J., Ahmad, Y., Frost, E., Kimberlee, R., McCartan, K. and Solle, J. and Bristol City Council (2014) The troubled families programme: A process, impact and social return on investment analysis. Project Report. University of the West of England, UWE Repository.

Local process evaluation.

Frontier Economics & the Colebrooke Centre (2014) Payment by Results in Children’s Centres Evaluation. London: Department for Education

Describes tension between national and local PbR approach to PbR trial. Trial too short to see positive outcomes, local providers keen to develop PbR further.

House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts (2014) Programmes to help families facing multiple challenges. Fifty-first report of session 2013-14.

Looks at similar but separate programs run by DCLG and DWP resulting in “confusion and unnecessary duplication.”

National Audit Office (2013) Programmes to help families facing multiple challenges: report by the Comptroller and Auditor General HC 878 Session 2013 – 14 3 December 2013.

Problems from overlapping schemes from two different government departments and the difficulties of PbR schemes designed to meet multiple objectives.

Department of Communities and Local Government (2012) The Troubled Families programme: Financial framework for the Troubled Families programme’s payment-by-results scheme for local authorities.

The rationale for the Troubled Families programme complete with details of payment schedule.




Get every blog post by email for free