The Government's troubled families tsar Louise Casey has painted a depressing picture of the characteristic traits of many troubled families, with cyclical patterns of educational failure, acceptance of state dependency, and physical and sexual abuse carried down through the generations. 

Appointed to try to turn round the lives of 120,000 of the UK's most dysfunctional families Casey focused on 16 case studies, finding how violence within these households is often endemic and that abuse is seen as "normal".

Carrying out research for her report casey found that half of the families interviewed had more than four children and most parents had their first child before the age of 18. She discovered patterns of experiences such as domestic and sexual abuse, teenage pregnancies, police callouts and educational failure, which were often passed from generation to generation.

Children from these troubled families often display behavioural problems in school and when older truant and leave with low or no educational attainment.

The report backed tackling the inter-linked issues of a whole family, rather than dealing with single problems or single individuals within a household.

Casey said: "I am not making excuses for any family failing to send their kids to school or causing trouble in their community. However, unless we really understand what it is about these families that means they behave in this way, we can't start to turn their lives around.

"Conducting these interviews has been an eye-opening experience - to hear firsthand about the lives these families lead and the legacy of trouble that's often been passed down to them.

"It is clearer than ever to me now that we cannot go on allowing troubled families to fail their children; none of the parents I spoke to wanted their children to repeat a life of chaos and trouble, but often they couldn't see how to put things right by themselves; they needed practical and persistent help to do so."

Barnado's chief executive, Anne Marie Carrie, echoed this, saying: "We need to stop viewing troubled families as problems and start seeing them as people.

"Barnardo's experience has taught us that we can only help children and parents to change their life stories if we tackle sometimes angry and abusive behaviour at its root.

"We know that what makes a difference for the most troubled families is having just one person they can consistently turn to for practical help and support"

The government has promised to pay local authorities up to £4,000 per eligible family for reducing truancy, youth crime and antisocial behaviour, or putting parents back into work.

The programme's £448m three-year budget is drawn from across seven departments in an effort to join up local services.

Posted by Penny Hosie