A GOVERNMENT scheme which aims to get people away from lives of crime and off benefits has turned round the lives of 703 families in Essex.

The £448million Troubled Families programme, launched by the Coalition in response to the 2011 riots, gives councils cash to carry out work with problem families.

It identified thousands of troubled families in Essex, and also gave Southend Council and Thurrock Council thousands to intervene in each family.

The three authorities were given until 2015 to improve the lives of 3,000 families, but less than a third of that has been accomplished, according to a Government progress report.

Southend Council’s housing bosses claim it is a long process to help families, and they want to ensure the effects are long term – which are not reflected in the statistics.

The scheme gives councils £3,200 to spend per identified family, and another £800 once they are “turned round”.

Success is measured by a drop in offending rates, antisocial behaviour incidents, and truancy.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Getting some of our country’s most troubled families’ lives back on track is a key part of our long-term plan.

“It saves the taxpayer money, gives people the chance to get on in life and secures a better future for these families, their communities and for our country.”

Essex County Council was tasked to work with 2,220 families, and has so far helped 497, according to Coalition figures.

Southend Council was told to work with 420 families, and has turned around 80.

Thurrock Council has 360 troubled families and has succeeded in helping 126.

Some areas have already helped three quarters of their troubled families.