Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Activists target council for 'Nanny State' initiative for 'Troubled Families.' Blame the Government not single-mothers, say protesters!

Yesterday around 30 activists from across Greater Manchester, joined a protest outside Ashton-under-Lyne Town Hall, organised by 'Tameside Against the  Cuts'. They were there to protest against the 'Troubled Families Phase 2' initiative which is being introduced by Tameside Council in  Greater Manchester, as a joint enterprise between the Council, Ashton-under-Lyne Jobcentre and New  Charter Housing Trust.

Under the scheme - 'Troubled Families Wave 2, Joint Investment Agreement', Tameside Council is being paid  a £1000 attachment fee by the government for each troubled family on its books and is aiming to work with a minimum of 1,750 so-called 'Troubled Families'.  A further £800 'results fee' is also paid by the government, to an agency appointed by the council. This scheme follows on from Phase 1, which helped 'Troubled Families' with such things as truancy, anti-social behaviour, crime, domestic violence and drug and alcohol dependency.

Although the initiative appears to be legal but looks bent, a leaflet distributed by the protesters, described it as a "dodgy deal between the Government and the Greater Manchester Councils." In particular, they say that single-mothers are being targeted and designated as 'troubled families' because of problems that are not of their making, but which have resulted from Government  economic policies and welfare reforms, which have reduced income for benefit claimants both in and out of work. They also say that the scheme is a misuse of vital financial resources and seeks to cover up Government failed economic  policies  by blaming people for being unemployed.

As we reported recently, a single-mother and jobseeker,  was designated a 'troubled family' and referred to the scheme by Ashton-under-Lyne Jobcentre, when it was claimed she was not doing enough to find work. Under the scheme, each 'troubled family' is designated a key worker and a busybody social worker to police their everyday activities and to give them a nudge back into work. One of the criteria for 'early intervention' by Tameside Social Services, is where the family is considered to be at risk of 'financial exclusion' or where the children are at risk of 'worklessness'.

Protesters also say that New Charter Housing Trust, which is closely linked to the council, have been assigned the role as organizer even though the contract was not put out to tender. The council say that a waiver was "granted under PSO C3.2 to enable a direct award of the investment agreement with New Charter Housing Trust." In March 2000, Tameside Council transferred 14,600 homes to New Charter. Many of the senior managers of New Charter were former council employees and a number of Labour councillor's on Tameside Council, have taken up paid positions within the company. New Charter Housing also own the Reporter and Chronicle Newspaper and Tameside Radio. New Charter also sponsor three academy schools in Tameside. Following a recent criticial report by Ofsted into Tameside schools, Education boss, Cllr. Ged Cooney, - a former Chairman of New Charter Housing Trust - blamed the borough's academies for dragging down educational performance rates in Tameside.

Whether social services intervention will result in 'Troubled Parents' having their children taken off them because of 'worklessness', is not addressed but social workers do have statutory powers to place children in care.

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