Peter Hoskin

Cameron targets his resources at problem families

Cameron targets his resources at problem families
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The Prime Minister's message today is, basically, that he hasn't forgotten about the riots. In a speech this morning, he's going to announce his biggest new policy in response to them so far: a network of 'troubleshooters' who will work with 120,000 of the country's most unstable families, with the aim, of course, of stabilising them. The idea is that the troubleshooters can help coordinate various services — from police to Job Centres –— to focus on these people. According to the Sun, the families will, in turn, face 'tough penalties' if they don't cooperate.

Some of you may be wary of this scheme — and it's easy to see why. I mean, yet more local authority lackeys swarming through the streets? Yet more money (in this case, £488 million, taken from existing Whitehall budgets) funnelled towards social breakdown? But there are, in fact, plenty of reasons to welcome Cameron's new plan. Even just in fiscal terms, the government's figures suggest that these 120,000 problem families cost the taxpayer £9 billion a year, in things like crime and child protection. Which is to say, that £488 million could soon start to look like money recouped. As Tim Montgomerie points out over at ConservativeHome, similar schemes have so far saved £2 for every £1 spent.

That's why you can expect to see more of this targeted spending in future. Homing in on the areas of maximum impact is the Pareto-style idea that is currently being encouraged in the NHS, and which underpins many of the government's welfare reforms. And if it saves some money for George Osborne around the next election, then all the better.