A flagship government initiative to help the most disadvantaged families in England has made no significant impact, according to analysis of the scheme.
The Troubled Families Programme was launched in 2012 at an initial cost of £448m, before it was later extended.
However, independent analysis has suggested the programme has had no measurable effect on employment, school attendance or anti-social behaviour.
But Communities Minister Lord Bourne said it had “transformed” lives.
The flagship programme – trumpeted by former Prime Minister David Cameron – was initially launched with the intent of turning around the lives of 120,000 of the most “troubled” families in England.
Set up following the 2011 riots in the UK, the scheme was aimed at areas affected by high unemployment, truancy and anti-social behaviour, and ran across England.
It was intended to save money and prevent future rioting by reducing the problems of disadvantaged families by paying councils to work directly with them on resolving their issues.
Local authorities are paid up to £4,000 on a payment-by-results basis for turning around the hardest-to-help families.
The government has previously heralded the success of the scheme, with ministers saying the lives of tens of thousands of families had been “turned around”.
It was later extended from 2015 for a further five years, to cover another 400,000 families at a further cost of £900m.
‘No consistent evidence’
However, analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) found no consistent, measurable evidence that the scheme had improved the lives of families it aimed to help.
Using data from a quarter of the families that had taken part in the first stage of the programme, NIESR calculated that there were “a very small number of positive or negative results”.
“Across a wide range of outcomes, covering the key objectives of the Troubled Families Programme – employment, benefit receipt, school attendance, safeguarding and child welfare – we were unable to find consistent evidence that the programme had any significant or systematic impact,” the report stated.
Jonathan Portes, one of the authors of the report, wrote that the programme was a “perfect case study of how the manipulation and misrepresentation of statistics by civil servants and politicians led to bad policy making and the wasting of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
In August, the BBC’s Newsnight reported a leaked version of the report, saying its publication had been “suppressed” – claims the government denied.
Last week, Lord Bourne defended the programme, saying it had transformed the way different services, including the police and social services, responded to the most complex families.
He said the government would continue to help and support them.
“We believe this programme has transformed the lives of thousands of families. The councils and front-line staff who have put it into practice should be pleased with the work they have done,” he said.
“And, most of all, the families should be proud of having had the courage and commitment to change their lives for the better. They valued the programme because for them it worked.
“So we will not turn our backs on these families. We will continue to help and support even more families who are just about managing, or not managing at all, as we build a Britain that works for everybody and not just the privileged few.”
Troubled families scheme has made ‘no significant impact’}