In what can only be described as the least comfortable form of indigestion, as we sit eating our morning porridge, which we usually enjoy terribly, this exclusive from The Independent really chokes us up – in more ways than one.
Eric Pickles, our Communities Secretary (they just keep making up new names for these jobs, don’t they; we wonder how much was spent on pushing that bit of red tape through), in an interview for The Independent On Sunday has told the public that the government will be clamping down on what they call ‘Problem Families’. We don’t know about you, but most families have problems. It’s how you deal with them, that makes the difference. And startlingly, although really we should not be surprised by this latest news, the government has decided to put in place a programme [that] will be “more forceful in language, a little less understanding“. He added: “Sometimes we’ve run away from categorising, stigmatising, laying blame.”
There is a good reason why society and civilisation as a whole has moved away from categorising, blaming and stigmatising – we’ve understood it’s what neanderthals do. None of these proposals are constructive; they will simply push us further into a ‘Them and Us’ culture, the government will experience a huge backlash and eventually, just as the banks are now becoming redundant through things like peer-to-peer lending, post the disaster that was the bank-induced sub-prime mortgage crisis, so too, will government find that people are finding innovative and intelligent ways to govern themselves.
And that’s not all. The article tells us that Mr Pickles “will announce tomorrow that all 152 top-level councils in England will be incentivised to send in troubleshooters to confront difficult families in their area, as part of a £450m payment-by-results scheme.” During a time of austerity, isn’t chucking money at people to ‘confront’ families, a complete waste of millions of pounds?
We have also just been made aware of a very interesting article by Jonathan Portes, who is the Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which explains very clearly the odd discrepancies in relation to how the government accounts for and categorises ‘Troubled’ or ‘Problem’ families. (Many thanks to a fabulous gentleman lawyer friend on twitter who goes by the name of Nearly Legal, for alerting us to this piece).
Let’s be fair; with initiatives like these – what does Mr Pickles really have to offer the community? It won’t be long, we feel, before our Communities Secretary gets himself into a real Pickle over this one….
We’re so shocked we’ve gone right off our porridge.
We’d also like to thank Jonathan Portes, who very kindly mentioned this very interesting podcast from the BBC’s radio 4 series ‘More or Less’, entitled ‘ Are 120,000 families responsible for a disproportionate share of society’s ills?’, which aired on 20th May, 2012. The programme was produced by Richard Knight and presented by Tim Harford.