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EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.4 Inclusive programmes for young people

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 13/08/2020 - 12:39

On this page
  1. Programmes for vulnerable young people
  2. Funding
  3. Quality assurance

Programmes for vulnerable young people

The Troubled Families programme, Life Chances Fund and Children's Social Care Innovation Programme all specifically target vulnerable young people.   

In addition, all the strategies aimed at reducing social inequality (described in the article on 'Strategy for the Social Inclusion of Young People') prioritise support for vulnerable young people. 

The systems for providing formal and non-formal education, and youth justice, all have a central role to play in fostering social inclusion.

Troubled Families

The Troubled Families Programme is a programme of targeted intervention for families with multiple problems, including crime, anti-social behaviour, truancy, unemployment, mental health problems and domestic abuse. One aim of the programme is to tackle issues before they require costlier interventions.  Staff funded by the programme identify ‘troubled families’ in their area and usually assign a key worker to each family, acting as a single point of contact. The Government uses a ‘payment-by-results’ model to incentivise positive outcomes. This involves both an upfront attachment fee to local authorities and a reward payment for each family that shows sustained improvement across set criteria or moves into continuous employment.

£448 million was allocated to the first phase of the programme which ran from 2012 to 2015. The second phase of the Programme was launched in 2015, with £920 million allocated to help an additional 400,000 families. In 2020, the programme received £165 million in funding to ensure it continues running for another year, until March 2021.

Evaluation has indicated that the programme has reduced the number of Looked After Children, as well as the number of custodial sentences and convictions.  The 2019 cost-benefit analysis suggested that the programme had resulted in economic and fiscal benefits to the taxpayer and wider society.  These benefits had mainly been realised through reductions in the number of Children in Care and youth offending.

Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families

The Government published ‘Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families in April 2017. It identifies that children from workless families are often faced with other multiple, complex problems, like parental conflict, poor parental mental health, and parent alcohol and drug dependency, as they tend to overlap with parental worklessness. These issues in turn, affect children’s and families outcomes and prevents them from fulfilling their full potential. The policy paper provides a framework on how the government will improve disadvantaged children’s and families’ outcomes, this includes: 

  • Setting the next phase of the Troubled Families Programme, 
  • Reduce parental conflict through a new programme delivered locally by specialised organisations
  • Improve the Jobcentre Plus’ services by providing more personalised services for Jobseekers and to efficiently address their needs, strengthen partnerships with local authorities, wider public service and the public sector, and circulate information more effectively  
  • Implementing a trial of the Individual and Placement Support approach which tackles alcohol and drug dependency, by providing them support to go back into employment, building a network to help them, and treatment. 

In 2019, the Department for Work and Pensions published ‘Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families Indicators 2019’, which was used to track progress in tackling disadvantages affecting families’ and children’s outcomes. 

Life Chances Fund

The Life Chances Fund (LCF) is an £80m fund provided by central government to help people in society who face the most significant barriers to leading happy and productive lives. It provides top up contributions to outcomes-based contracts involving social investment, referred to as Social Impact Bonds (SIBs). These contracts must be locally commissioned and designed to tackle complex social problems over six themes:

  • drug and alcohol dependency,
  • children's services,
  • young people,
  • early years,
  • older people's services,
  • and healthy lives.

Targeted policy callouts will invite applications to the themes across three staggered intervals. The fund launched in July 2016 and will run for nine years through to March 2025. The Life Chances Fund has awarded over £760,000 to local commissioners and service providers to develop the Social Impact Bonds that tackle social issues, like drug and alcohol dependency amongst disadvantaged young people and help support children’s services. 

The use of SIBs should make it easier for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations (VCSEs) to access the investment they need to increase the size of their project. An example of SIB funding is the 2016 Youth Engagement Fund of £16 million. The ultimate aim of the fund is to improve employment prospects of disadvantaged, vulnerable, young people by paying for positive education and employment outcomes. This will improve their employability and in turn, reduce long-term benefits dependency and likelihood of offending, as there is a strong link between poor educational achievement and chances of offending.  A list of the projects supported by the third and final round of funding was announced in September 2018. 

 An evaluation report of the Youth Engagement Fund was published in May 2020, and found that overall the interventions delivered appear to have been implemented successfully. The services provided were found to be effective in engaging young people, in particular the quality of the coaching/mentoring. However, there were also limitations to the support, as the providers did not necessarily support the most disadvantaged young people in the area, and focused primarily on supporting young people rather than also addressing the wider factors that affect whether young people become NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training). 

Children's Social Care Innovation Programme

In 2013, the Department for Education launched the Children's Social Care Innovation Programme, aimed at developing, testing and sharing effective ways of supporting children who need help from social care services to ultimately help improve social care for the future.  The programme was extended in 2016 with £200 million of government funding committed over four years. More information about the programme, and its main delivery partner, the Spring Consortium, can be found on the Innovation Unit website.

Youth justice system

The Youth Justice Board oversees the youth justice system in England and Wales; its principal aim is to prevent offending. It is a non-departmental public body which was created by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 . 

The youth justice system in England and Wales is made up of a network of organisations that work together to administer justice and support children and young people. This network consists of:

  • youth offending teams (YOTs) (multi-disciplinary teams which work young people that get in trouble with the law)
  • local partnerships made up of partners from the police, probation services, local authority children’s services and health services
  • the police and the Crown Prosecution Service
  • the courts and the judiciary
  • secure accommodation providers.

There are various prevention programmes that work to keep young people, especially those who are vulnerable, away from crime. They are run within local communities, and can involve parents and families.

Participation is voluntary, and does not begin before the young person themselves and their parents confirm and agree to what will be expected of them. This is set out in an Intervention Plan. Many programmes are run by the relevant local authority's youth offending team or by other local organisations, such as youth charities.

From 2018 to 2021,  priorities include:

  • national standards for youth justice
  • improving local practice
  • resettlement and transitions between services
  • safety and education in custody
  • Secure Schools
  • the disproportionate representation of children from some black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds in the youth justice system
  • serious youth violence reduction

Furthermore, the Home Office released the Serious Violence Strategy in April 2018. It addressed how the Government will be responding to the increase in serious violence - knife crime, gun crime and homicide. It sets out a programme that focuses on young people and early intervention to ‘catch young people before they go down the wrong path.’ See section ‘Serious Violence Strategy’ in the article on ‘Current Debates and Reforms’ for more information. 


For programmes within the education system aimed at vulnerable young people, see the section ‘Educational support’ in the article ‘Social inclusion through education and training’ for further information.

Local authority programmes for vulnerable young people

Local authorities have a youth support team (or similarly named group) responsible for supporting young people most at risk of not making a successful transition into adulthood.  They are generally multi-disciplinary teams consisting of youth workers and family support, health and careers specialists, social workers, police and probation officers. They may offer advice, support and guidance in the following areas:

  • health
  • housing
  • sex and relationships
  • youth justice (see above).

Under statutory duties, local authorities have to provide services and activities that improve the well-being of young people, and those with learning difficulties to age 24. 

Other programme providers

A number of charities provide services which target vulnerable young people to aid their social inclusion, including (but not limited to): 

  • Action for Children, which provides practical and emotional support for young people to help them build the skills they need to successfully transition to adulthood. 
  • Transitions UK, which supports disadvantaged young people aged 14 to 25 years to help them  become healthy, happy and fulfilled adults.
  • The Explore programme (part of The Prince’s Trust) which supports disadvantaged young people aged 16-25, by encouraging them to develop the motivation, self-confidence and skills they need to change their lives.

For further information, please visit each charity's website. The following section focuses on government programmes.



Funding mechanisms are described where the programme / intervention is mentioned above. 

Quality assurance


Programmes focusing on young people’s social inclusion tend to have built in evaluation and quality assurance procedures. For example: