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Title: A Foucauldian analysis of 'troubled families'
Author: MacLehose, Anna
ISNI:       0000 0004 5352 3956
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2014
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The ‘Troubled Families Agenda’ (TFA), a national initiative launched by the UK Government in 2011, aimed to identify and work with families defined by the Government as ‘troubled’, in order to decrease their ‘anti-social behaviour’, help children back into school and support parents into employment. This research, undertaken from a social constructionist critical realist epistemological position, attempted to gain an understanding of the Government’s construction of ‘troubled families’, and to consider what ways of thinking about, and working with, families these constructions might have enabled and silenced. The dataset consisted of: the seven policy and guidance documents available on the Government’s TFA website; five speeches concerning the TFA made by leading politicians; and four parliamentary debate and Commons’ Select Committee report extracts. The dataset inclusion criteria required government policy documents and texts of speeches and debates to have been published between 6th March 2010 and 31st March 2013, and to refer to ‘troubled families’ more than twice. The analysis of this dataset was conducted using a discourse analytic approach, drawing on the work of Michel Foucault. Seven analytic steps were followed, which included repeated readings and coding of the texts. Four dominant governmental constructions of ‘troubled families’ were identified, that of: ‘violent’; ‘workless’; ‘helpless’ families that are ultimately a ‘costly waste of human productivity’. The Government seems to have presented the TFA as an innovative, benevolent social care agenda. However, at its root, the TFA appears to be driven by neo-liberal economic forces, intent on reducing the cost of families that may have a range of difficulties. The Government seems to have taken a reductive approach towards their construction of ‘troubled families’, allowing families to be produced as homogenous and less complex discursive objects. This has allowed the Government to set simple material outcomes for services to achieve with families that may have a range of complex difficulties. These outcomes neatly connect to the financial models underpinning the TFA, enabling the introduction of financial products, such as social impact bonds, which might allow private investors to exert influence upon the TFA services. The Government appears to be using families who may have a range of difficulties as vehicles to grow the social investment market. It is argued that this is likely to negatively impact the design of services, which might hinder social and health care professionals’ ability to work in a manner that will meet the complex needs of families. This research calls for the financial models that underpin services to be designed in the best interest of the service users, rather than that of investors and Government. This research also echoes calls for the perspectives and experiences of families with complex needs to be more effectively incorporated into the development of family initiatives, such as the TFA. Finally, this study encourages frontline workers and clinical psychologists to be more aware of the political forces and neo-liberal assumptions that are shaping the services in which they work, if effective forms of resistance are to be made possible.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Prof.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available