I interviewed Louise Casey, the tough-talking head of the government’s troubled families programme, last week for The Sunday Times.
Five minutes into our interview and Casey lost control. After telling me about her meeting with Stella, a 40-year-old mother from one of Britain’s most troubled families Casey had to stop, choked with emotion. Stella’s son was first brought home by the police when he was 11; Stella’s grandchildren have been taken away from her daughter; Stella herself was abused as a child.
Casey, who has been charged with mending broken Britain by turning around 120,000 problem families by 2015, apologised to me for her outbreak of emotion.
“How amazing,” she said. “I don’t think I have ever done that before, but some of these families really get under your skin because you know they are carrying such adversity on their shoulders.”
So, how do you break the cycle of misery that is passed through the generations in these problem families? According to Casey it could be as simple as assigning a team of social workers to each family to literally live on their sofas for a few months and teach mums how to do basic things like get out of bed in the morning to get the kids off to school or how to cook an evening meal.
The government will pay local councils £4,000 a family if they reduce truancy and crime or put parents back to work.
Families that don’t co-operate will lose their benefits and/or their council house and their children may be taken into care.
“As touching as I have found talking to some of these families, I am absolutely sure I would not have wanted to live next door to Sarah’s family two or three years ago,” Casey admitted.