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Intensive Family Intervention and the Problem Figuration of ‘Troubled Families’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 September 2015

Emily Ball
Department of Town and Regional Planning, University of Sheffield E-mail:
Elaine Batty
Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University E-mail:
John Flint
Department of Town and Regional Planning, University of Sheffield E-mail:


This article examines how intensive family interventions in England since 1997, including the Coalition government's Troubled Families programme, are situated in a contemporary problem figuration of ‘anti-social’ or ‘troubled’ families that frames and justifies the utilisation of different models of intensive family intervention. The article explores how techniques of classification and estimation, combined with the controversial use of ‘research’ evidence in policy making, are situated within a ‘rational fiction’ that constructs ‘anti-social’ families in particular ways. The article illustrates how this problem figuration has evolved during the New Labour and Coalition administrations in England, identifying their similarities and differences. It then presents findings from a study of intensive family intervention strategies and mechanisms in a large English city to illustrate how this national level discourse and policy framework relates to developing localised practice, and the tensions and ambiguities that arise.

Themed Section on Intensive Family Support Services: Politics, Policy and Practice Across Contexts
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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