David Cameron’s brazen hypocrisy….
I don’t really like it when governments launch initiatives like David Cameron did today targeting ‘problem families’. Firstly, there is the obvious ‘othering’ – the suggestion that all our social ills can be solved by sorting out a few noisy neighbours. This is, of course, not true, it may make your life marginally better if you live next door to one of the families but is it going to make your job secure or your debt magically decrease? I think not. Related to this is the avoidance of the causes of problems within these families which frequently can be rooted to the structural inequities of capitalist society and the complete failure of any kind of meritocracy.
Secondly, although I don’t doubt they do have an impact, the extent of that is questionable. By definition, governments want quick and easily quantifiable results. They want some sexy stats they can send to the evening news desk. This tends to militate against them considering the fact that long-term problems tend to require long-term solutions. As Enver Solomon, director of policy at the Children’s Society said:
Intensive family support co-ordinated by a dedicated skilled worker can make a real difference to chaotic families who have multiple needs.
But it is important to recognise that there are no quick fixes for families and their children whose problems are often linked with challenging mental health needs, alcohol misuse and poverty.
Turning around their lives can be a long term process that on the way involves success and failure depending a great deal on accessing good quality specialist support as well as achieving financial security.
In other words, Cameron may get some heartening statistics to put in the next Conservative manifesto but will this really solve the issue once and for all? Probably not. This leads to the third problem. Governments by their nature are temporary so it’s often the case that they can’t properly commit to long-term solutions because they often find themselves replaced by another Party with different priorities and initiatives of its own. This happened with Labour’s child poverty crusade – its good work has been simply thrown out the window and even set in reverse by the existing government. Either that or the same government loses interest when it’s no longer worth a few points in the polls.
Finally, there is the brazen hypocrisy of this specific Prime Minister in tossing off a relatively paltry £448 million plan when he and his Party has cut to the bone essential services. By this I don’t just mean obvious things like Sure Start centres, the Future Jobs Fund, etc, etc but also the cutbacks which have, for example, resulted in the cutting of facilities that exist to support those with mental health problems. This is to not even start on the welfare cuts which are pushing so many vulnerable people into an abyss of depression and contemplation of suicide. If Cameron wants to make a really worthwhile contribution to the lives of these people he could start about thinking about the disastrous impact of his own policies on their lives.
It all reminds me a bit of the very first The Thick of It episode in which the Hugh Abbott, the Minister for Social Affairs, and his two aides, Olly and Glen desperately try to construct a sparkling new policy initiative in the back of their limo before a press conference. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if this is exactly how this initiative came about. So, until governments are willing to start changing the structure of our society in a radical and redistributive way (I don’t just mean redistribution of money but also of available opportunity and democratic control of people’s lives) it would probably be better if they didn’t bother with these kind of things at all – at least it would spare us the sick-bag hypocrisy of the likes of David Cameron.