Vol. 9 No. 18 (2018): Vol 9, N° 18 (2018): Sociologia, costruzionismo e problemi sociali

Il programma troubled families nelle politiche sociali britanniche

Published 2018-12-18

How to Cite

Ba’, S. (2018). Il programma troubled families nelle politiche sociali britanniche. SocietàMutamentoPolitica, 9(18), 157–174. https://doi.org/10.13128/SMP-24344


This article is about presenting to the Italian audience the Troubled Families Programme (TFP). The TFP is a social policy of the British Conservative government which has the aim to ‘turn around’ the lives of a precise number of families (first around 120,000, then around 400,000) labelled as ‘troubled’. The social problem that these families are supposed to represent is about their anti-social behaviour, their unemployment and their parenting skills, that is: their alleged inability to be ‘good parents’, hence the perceived danger that their children may be either neglected or be recruited by local youth gangs. However, this article shows that, from the very first analysis of the official and statutory papers, the social problem of the troubled families is not well defined nor well documented. If on one hand the official papers acknowledge deprived back-ground as one of the main factors for the destabilisation of these families, on the other hand the obsession with individual behaviour of single families makes the TFP a punitive and inflexible policy. Through the analysis of the socio-political context, we propose the thesis that the TFP is a policy that complement the general political approach of austerity, driven by the Conservatives and their patrons, which ultimate aim is actually about regaining consensus amongst the middle classes. An examination of the history of British social policies frames this Programme as a “disciplinary” policy, that is, a tool for monitoring and controlling parts of the disadvantaged population considered unreliable (the “underclass”). Discipline and consensus are identified as key elements of this policy within the context of a prolonged economic and social crisis. To avoid an abstract critique of the TFP, we analysed empirical studies on the protagonists of this social policy. The voices of teenagers, supposed to be the beneficiaries of the Programme, are important because they reveal both the ambiguities of the Programme and the context of the social problem. In the conclusion I try not to avoid the question on what the final consideration on the TFP can be.


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