PM: "I really think it is a realistic prospect to try and turn around the lives of these 120,000 families over the next three years."
Good evening everyone. A very warm welcome to Number 10 Downing Street. This is an issue I’m particularly passionate about, so it’s great to have so many people here from local government and so many people from different organisations and institutes that care about families. Today we’re celebrating a step forward in the programme of trying to deal with the most troubled families, and that is producing the Payment by Results model to make money available for local authorities.
I am going to hand over to Eric Pickles who is going to tell you all about it, but I just wanted to make a couple of remarks about why I think this is so important. I think we all know that whether you say there are 120,000 or 200,000 or 50,000, we all know there are some deeply troubled families in our country who are responsible for a huge amount of social problems, for themselves but also for the wider community - the children aren’t going to school, the parents aren’t in work, they are responsible for a huge amount of crime and antisocial behaviour, and they are deeply, deeply chaotic. And I know there are lots of arguments - and believe me the arguments have been made in Whitehall from time to time - that while we already spend a fortune on these families, why throw even more money at them.
That is one argument that’s been made. Another argument that’s made is: well, you just have to leave all these things to entire local discretion; it is not really a job for central government to get involved in this issue. And then people who say, ‘Well, of course, even if you could do something, would it really work? These are such chaotic families, shouldn’t you be putting your attention elsewhere?’
Well, I think all of those arguments are wrong and I am very proud of the fact that this government has decided to roll up its sleeves and really try and deal with these problems. The fact that we spend so much money on these families already - some £9 billion - I think should incentivise us to think, ‘Well, can we do something really inventive and creative that will massively cut the cost of these families by solving their problems?’
To people who say, ‘Well, this is entirely the matter for local discretion; what’s central government got to do?’ I think one of the things I’ve learnt in this job is there are enormous silos in central government, as sometimes there can be in local government, and if at the centre you can break those down and you can get the Department for Work and Pensions to share the data and the Home Office to share the money and the Local Government Department to encourage others, you can get a huge amount done and I think that is what this programme is all about.
To those who say, ‘Well, it can’t really work and you can’t make a difference’, I would just say, ‘Look at the incredible work that many local authorities are already doing’. And the fact is I think we all know that when you come across one of the families you can see that they are probably in touch with about 14 different state agencies; they’ve got the police knocking on the door one minute, then the probation service, then the child support agency, then the local authority, then the housing benefit officer, then the social worker. As someone put it to me who does this work in Swindon, there are 14 agencies working on the family, but no one is actually working with the family, and it’s the moment that you work with the family that you start solving their problems and turn them from being a troubled family into a family that can bring up their children properly and make a good contribution to our country.
I think it’s a hugely important area of work we’re all trying to get right. I think it’s fantastic that Eric is giving it such strong leadership from the Department of Communities and Local Government. He’s got working with him Louise Casey who is an immensely talented official with a huge ‘can do’ sense that knocks us all sideways, and probably many of you sideways as well, but you need to know that she has got not just direct access to Eric - who is a minister who can get things done - but also direct access to me, so if this programme gets off track, if there is anything that needs to be done, if there are heads that need to bang together, she, Eric and I will get it fixed.
But it wouldn’t have happened without amazing work and cooperation from Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, from the Home Office, from the Department of Education - everyone has pitched in because this government is really passionate about this subject. So, I hope that the model that we produced works for you. I want to hear from people if they say there are improvements they can make, but I want to be absolutely clear, the government’s passionate about the issue; I’m passionate about the issue. I really think it is a realistic prospect to try and turn around the lives of these 120,000 families over the next three years, and I want to thank you all for the work that I know that you are going to do. Thank you very much. Over to Eric.
Well, thank you Prime Minister. We have this really exciting model for Payments by Results. I’ve read it; I’ve had it explained to me, and it’s really cool, and you are going to like it. We have lots of really clever people here to explain it.
But, listen, that is not what it’s really about. We’ve got ten authorities already signed up, and I think once you’ve seen it you’ll want to sign up. But just think back to why you got yourself involved in this project. Think back from when you were younger, more exciting, more attractive to the opposite sex, just think back on those times - you came in to make a big difference, right? And we know that these families, it’s a generational thing. When I was involved in Bradford, it was a particular bunch of families. Who is here from Bradford? Fantastic. It’s the same bunch of people. It’s just a generation on. But we’ve known that we could do this, and it’s always been just that little bit too hard. It’s always been that little bit different, and frankly there has been no political push behind it. Now, let’s take the Prime Minister who was determined to do something about this and there were lots of very clever people who told him, ‘Don’t do it; it’s too difficult, it’s too hard,’ but we were determined to push this through.
And we’ve brought the government together, but the most important thing is this: that we all in this room - whether you’re a politician, a chief executive, somebody from a charity - we have a chance now, we have a real chance of turning the lives round of those folks. You know, we talk about the money its costing, but it is a human waste. People on a system that’s leading nowhere, and we’ve got a chance to make a difference, so you and I, with the Prime Minister, with Louise, we of the next few years are going to make a difference, and I think that when you look back in a few years’ time you’ll be really glad you were here. You’ll be really glad because you are going to make a difference, and I am very much looking forward to working with all of you in the months to come. Thank you very much.