Information sharing to support troubled families

Information sharing has been at the heart of the Troubled Families programme from the start, providing the intelligence local programmes need to identify families, identify their needs and understand their progress.

During 2016, the Centre has been working with a small number of local places to support their information sharing – this is during phase two of the programme (find out more about our involvement below in ‘Our role’).

For those not familiar with the programme overall, we have included a brief overview below which outlines the background to the Troubled Families programme – adapted from the Department for Communities and Local Government website.

*Please note the information in this section has been lifted from


Troubled families are those families that have multiple and complex problems which both disadvantage themselves and the wider community, putting high costs on the public sector. The government aim was to commit to working with local authorities and their partners to help 120,000 troubled families in England turn their lives around by 2015. They wanted to ensure the children in these families have the chance of a better life, and at the same time bring down the cost to the taxpayer.


As part of the Troubled Families programme, the government committed to work alongside local authorities to:

  • get children back into school
  • reduce youth crime and anti-social behaviour
  • put adults on a path back to work
  • reduce the high costs these families place on the public sector each year

Government encouraged local authorities to work with families in ways the evidence shows is more effective, such as:

  • joining up local services
  • dealing with each family’s problems as a whole rather than responding to each problem, or person, separately
  • appointing a single key worker to get to grips with the family’s problems and work intensively with them to change their lives for the better for the long term
  • using a mix of methods that support families and challenge poor behaviour

The Troubled Families programme was launched by David Cameron in 2011 and led by Louise Casey CB. To read more about the background of phase one, click here.

To read the overview report of phase one published by DCLG in October 2016, click here.

In August 2014, Eric Pickles announced details of an expansion of the government’s Troubled Families programme. ‘As well as expanding from working with school-age children to those under 5, the wider programme will also have a particular focus on improving poor health…which is a particular problem in troubled families, with 71% having a physical health problem and 46% a mental health concern.’ (See DCLG press release).

The second phase of the Troubled Families programme aims to achieve significant and sustained improvement for up to 400,000 families with multiple, high-cost problems. Whilst it retains its focus on families with multiple high cost problems, the criteria has been broadened out (to include, for example, domestic abuse and mental health) so that local areas get to families of most concern to them.

An independent evaluation of phase one found that the programme has driven significant improvements in data sharing.1

‘However there remain significant problems and complexities involved in data sharing. The evaluation highlights the challenges that existed around the quality and collection of data both at the outset and throughout the programme and the quality of locally available data in particular has also had an impact on the overall evaluation as described below.’ 2

Due to this need to improve information sharing in phase two of the programme,  we are working with the Department of Communities and Local Government, the Department of Health and Public Health England as part of the national ‘Health Information Sharing Project’. Our role is to  work with local places to find out how they’re sharing health data to help identify and support families with multiple, complex problems in their areas. Throughout this time, the local places we are working with have been developing new arrangements to share a range of health data, and use this to improve the support provided to local families.

Along with experts from the Department of Health, we’ll also be supporting these places to understand any further barriers to sharing health data that remain and to develop local solutions.

Barriers and factors for success across the local places will then be published in our case studies so other local places can learn from the lessons learnt in the areas we are working with.

One of the areas which the Centre has worked with to identify the cultural barriers and enablers to sharing health data is the Troubled Families team from Staffordshire County Council (SCC). To understand this further, Engagement Managers from the Centre carried out a series of semi-structured interviews with key professionals involved in both the management and the delivery of the Staffordshire programme.

We are currently writing a full case study on the information sharing aspects of the Troubled Families programme carried out in Staffordshire. However in the meantime, you can download our Staffordshire Troubled Families executive summary which introduces the approach the Staffordshire team have taken and highlights the cultural barriers faced and the lessons learnt.

You can also read our guest blog written by the Staffordshire Troubled Families co-ordinator.

Through our work with the Staffordshire BRFC team, it was identified as a priority that the BRFC team should develop their strategic relationship with health partners in order to build on and extend the successful information sharing that BRFC have developed with mental health providers. To support this, the Centre developed a workshop with Staffordshire which focused on exploring a proposal to develop a local GP mental health information sharing pilot.

The objectives of the workshop were to:

1. Bring together local health partners to consider and inform the development of the GP mental health sharing pilot.

2. Provide an opportunity to discuss and identify cultural, people and behavioural information sharing challenges in relation to the proposed pilot and develop solutions to these.

To download the short summary report of this workshop, click here:  Staffordshire BRFC workshop summary

Click here for information on privacy impact assessment’s,  (this page includes an onward link to the Information Commissioner’s Office [ICO] guidance).

Click here for information on sharing information to identify and work with troubled families.

Click here to read the ‘Interim guidance for troubled families programme early starter areas – sharing health information about patients and service users with troubled families’. (This document was produced in 2014 by the Department of Health in collaboration with the Department of Communities and Local Government, and Public Health England).


  1. White, C., and Day, L. (2016) National Evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme. Final Report on the Process Evaluation.  
  2. The first Troubled Families Programme 2012 to 2015 An overview.