HUNDREDS more 'troubled families' will be helped in Southampton after the Prime Minister hailed an existing scheme as a “success”.

The city council is among 51 local authorities picked to spearhead an expansion of the scheme that aims to turn around the lives of problem households.

At present, the programme supports the poor and low-skilled, in particular people in poor quality housing, with long-standing disabilities or mental health problems.

Now the project will be rolled out and will see caseworkers also working intensively where there are problems of domestic violence, debt and children at risk of being taken into care.

Southampton will help lead the expansion after reporting that 455 of 685 troubled families in the city had already had their lives “turned around”.

David Cameron said the scheme was “tackling the underlying problems” - instead of simply sending in police, or social workers.

And he said: “Some people said it wouldn't work, that we couldn't create an intervention that would help turn these families around - but the results are clear.

“More children going to school, fewer crimes, less anti-social behaviour and more than 53,000 of these troubled families turned around. There is no doubt that this programme is a success.”

However, according to the latest figures, just 28 of those 455 “turned around” families in Southampton have someone in a steady job.

The National Audit Office (NAO) warned the scheme is “underperforming”, pointing to “poor co-ordination” after it was launched quickly, following the 2011 riots.

And it pointed out that a family can be counted as being “turned around” if it shows improvement in just one of seven areas.

Under the scheme, councils are paid up to £4,000 for each family they help. At the start, 80 per cent - or £3,200 - was paid upfront, reducing to 40 per cent in 2014-15.

But the Government said 300 specialist 'employment advisers' will now work with young people at risk of joblessness, in the 51 areas.

The expansion was announced in a “families” speech, in which Mr Cameron also unveiled a trial of age ratings for online music videos, to protect children.

But Labour ridiculed the idea of a “family-friendly Government”, pointing to more households relying on food banks and children's Sure Start centres closing because of cuts.

Tristram Hunt, Labour's education spokesman, said: “David Cameron's fictitious family friendly agenda won't fool anyone.

“It's a bit rich for the Prime Minister to offer warm words when hardworking families are suffering. Working parents are worse off and thousands have been hit by the bedroom tax. The Government has let families down by standing up for just a privileged few.”