The case for spending less on ‘troubled families’


2:30 pm - December 16th 2011

by Don Paskini    


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Earlier this week, David Cameron announced plans to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on ‘Troubled Family Trouble Shooters’, to try to turn around the lives of 120,000 families.

Right-wingers have criticised this initiative, saying the term ‘troubled families’ symbolises the neglect of the law-abiding majority, and that we should instead talk about (and punish) ‘problem families’. Labour’s critique is that spending cuts have removed many of these Family Intervention projects, and that this money won’t be enough to make up for the cuts.

But let’s start instead with a simple question. How and why are we spending £9 billion so badly on existing initiatives for these families?

The £9 billion which is spent on these ‘problem/troubled’ families is an average of £75,000 per family.

Very little of this money actually goes to the families. Instead it goes on things like court appearances, eviction notices, arrears notices, police intervention, child protection orders and parenting orders, and the salaries of a whole range of professionals who work in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

These professionals spend 80% of their time on servicing bureaucratic systems, and only 20% building relations with families. For example, looking specifically at one worker’s engagement with a teenager in one specific family, Participle were able to plot the following:

» 74% of their time was spend on administration – monitoring, tracking, filling in forms, data recording, reporting, creating a paper trail, attending multi-agency meetings;
» 12% of their time was spent supporting the teenager indirectly through liaison with other agencies, e.g. educational welfare, schools admission boards;
» 14% of their time was spent in the family home, and the majority of this time was spent collecting information and data to fulfill the reporting duties in the 74%.

‘Troubled Family Trouble Shooters’ will help put some families in charge of the services that they receive, and probably do more good than harm. But there is not a hope that they will turn round the lives of 120,000 ‘troubled families’.

The risk, as Community Links argue, is that “adding yet another ‘key worker’ isn’t the same as fundamentally reforming the operation of the 15 agencies who might be there already. In many ways, it sounds like it might be adding a 16th.”

So what would a lower cost, more effective alternative look like?

Services delivered with respect not only shape the experience and perceptions of those who use them, but can achieve wider goals more efficiently.

We need to acknowledge that that people receiving services know more about their own lives than the people delivering them, however necessary the professional expertise is in order to provide help.

That is a real challenge to the way that decision-makers and right wingers think. Billions of pounds are wasted because powerful people develop policies to deal with what they call ‘the stock’, the ‘hard to reach’, the ‘problem families’, the ‘welfare dependent’, ‘the underclass’ and so on.

They’ve built a vast form filling architecture in support of these flawed policies, and their discussions are about whether to chuck more money at it (‘the carrot’) or to develop new punishments for people who are failed by the system (‘the stick’).

David Robinson, founder of Community Links, tells the following story:

I was recently called by the mother of a child I know well. She was asking me to come to a family case conference. She read me the letter. No fewer than nine professionals were expected to attend so I asked why she needed me there as well. “Because,” she said, “I want someone who is on my side.”

We spend billions on “services” which fail to treat people with respect and fail to develop their capabilities. We should cut or redesign these services so that they cost less, and ensure that when families need it, they can get reliable and consistent support from someone who is demonstrably on their side.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Reader comments


This post reminds me a bit of that old saying about how conservatism cannot fail, but how you can fail conservatism.

I wonder how much this idea has to do with Million Dollar Murray

http://www.gladwell.com/2006/2006_02_13_a_murray.html

There is a right-wing critique of this initiative, which is that the term ‘troubled families’ symbolises the neglect of the law-abiding majority and is a product of ‘Left oppression theology’, and that we should instead talk about (and punish) ‘problem families’.

Serious question – Do the majority here make sense of this statement and am I just stupid or do others here have difficulty grasping what any of that actually means?

4. James from Durham

This certainly rings true. I have a recollection of attending a meeting involving social services. They turned up mob handed and most of the people had nothing to contribute. The meeting was quite confrontational – unnecessarily so. I was in the role of “someone on my side” also.

5. Chaise Guevara

@ 3 Dave

It’s a bit on the gobbledegookish side. I’d translate as follows:

Many right-wingers have criticised this idea. They feel that the term “troubled families” is euphemistic, and that these families should be referred to by the more negative experssion “problem families”.

They also feel that these families should be punished rather than being a target for state spending. Instead, they feel that the state is neglecting well-behaved people in favour of these “problem families”. Some of them are pretentious aresholes who use phrases like “left oppression theology”.

6. the a&e charge nurse

“We spend billions on “services” which fail to treat people with respect and fail to develop their capabilities” – this sounds warm and fuzzy but what does it actually mean?

My first thoughts are that families really are in deep shit if they need a state official to remind them about the basics of parenting (and I do mean the very basics when it comes to rudimentary obligations and responsibilities – such as knowing where your 9 year old son/daughter is at night).

The clash of rights are also a quagmire as any adoption services will tell you (biological parents fighting fosterer parents in court over complex issues) – that seems to be one of the reasons why placing some children can become such a protracted process.

Let’s face it, far to many children are routinely abused or failed by parents who for whatever reason are unable to put their child’s needs before their own – perhaps because they received abysmal parenting themselves.

Respect is all very well but if the alcoholic step Daddy, or boyfriend is causing all sorts of mischief but a damaged Mum just can’t, or won’t see it – then how does being nice alter the ongoing damage being done to children?

@3 In translation, the critique is that it’s the molly-coddling lefties fault for not having had the state foot them up the arse all the time.

“Do the majority here make sense of this statement and am I just stupid or do others here have difficulty grasping what any of that actually means?”

Gibberish like ‘left oppression theory’ is a direct quote from the political editor of the Daily Express, if that helps. The article links to his tweets on the subject, in the unlikely event that you should want to find out more about what he is on about.

“Very little of this money actually goes to the families. Instead it goes on things like court appearances, eviction notices, arrears notices, police intervention, child protection orders and parenting orders, and the salaries of a whole range of professionals who work in the public, voluntary and private sectors.”

So the answer to the critics that say people should be punished for anti-social behaviour are still going to trap us in a spiral of spending. In fact I’d say the more you punish the more expensive things will be because of both intended and unintended consequences. Unless there is fundamental social rehabilitation Cameron is throwing yet more good money after bad. If you could punish your way to social harmony we would have had it centuries ago.

Ah yes, “Lunchtime” O’Flynn. There’s a sage for you.

Isn’t this just the liberal managerial state in its essence?

Of course it’s not in anyone’s interest to solve this kind of problem–it’s far too lucrative for all concerned.

If you could punish your way to social harmony we would have had it centuries ago.

We did have it centuries ago.

13. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 vimothy

“We did have it centuries ago”

For a given value of “harmony”, to whit: “the proles knew what would happen to them if they mouthed off”.

14. Tax Obesity, Not Business

“They’ve [ie decision-makers and right wingers, apparently] built a vast form filling architecture in support of these flawed policies”

I’m afraid the demented level of regulation you refer to was created by Labour – not right-wingers.

“… and their discussions are about whether to chuck more money at it (‘the carrot’) or to develop new punishments for people who are failed by the system (‘the stick’).”

It shouldn’t be either/or, but both carrots and sticks, as appropriate to each case.

@5, @7 – Thanks

@8- Not sure if your criticising me or the OP but to be honest I read this site mainly at work and dont have time to read every linked article, and every linked article from there etc. This means that unfortunately, the unexplained in-jokes and references go over my head sometimes.

As for them being troubled or a problem, well Im sure they are both. What to do about it? Not sure, but it would be more productive to give them the 75k each than employ someone to fill in forms on their behalf.

For a given value of “harmony”, to whit: “the proles knew what would happen to them if they mouthed off”.

Isn’t that already captured by “punish our way to…”?

You seem to be saying, in effect, that we can’t punish our way to harmony because that would mean punishing our way to harmony.

Every town has such families, their problems go back for generations, with the same issues repeated over and over again. Drink and drugs combine with ingrained poor-parenting in fueling a misery of neglect, abuse and criminality, which is as predictable as a soap opera plot.

The children themselves as well as their surrounding communities suffer because an unholy alliance of social liberals and religious zealots refuse to even consider enforced long-term contraception as an solution. The preferred option always being to “work with” the families, despite all evidence indicating this is little more than damage limitation.

@16 Depends on what you mean by ‘harmony’ really.

The £9 billion which is spent on these ‘problem/troubled’ families is an average of £75,000 per family. Very little of this money actually goes to the families. Instead it goes on things like court appearances, eviction notices, arrears notices, police intervention, child protection orders and parenting orders, and the salaries of a whole range of professionals who work in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Excellent article, Don.

What, of course, we don’t know is the value of the interventions by all these well meaning professionals. It is not remotely measurable.

However anecdotal evidence from those who can remember how things were in the days before most of these kind of interventions took place suggests that the value approximates to zero.

20. Chaise Guevara

@ 16 vimothy

“Isn’t that already captured by “punish our way to…”?

You seem to be saying, in effect, that we can’t punish our way to harmony because that would mean punishing our way to harmony.”

Apologies – I thought you were just saying we used to have social harmony, not that we used to punish our way to social harmony. Falsely suspected you of rose-tinted glasses there.

21. the a&e charge nurse

[19] “It is not remotely measurable” – measurability is certainly an important factor, but are you suggesting that due to difficulties in establishing reliable measures all social services should be abolished?

Given that you rate their value at ‘zero’, I guess you are – I imagine those working in spheres like child protection might see it differently?

In my experience it is the present and not the past that people look on with rose tinted spectacles.

23. Chaise Guevara

@ 22

Meh. Depends on the person, depends on the topic.

24. the a&e charge nurse

[74] “74% of their time was spend on administration – monitoring, tracking, filling in forms, data recording, reporting, creating a paper trail, attending multi-agency meetings” – a near inevitable consequence of litigation – in court nobody is remotely interested in all the other cases being juggled but will instead require a step by step account of the minutiae of the case being examined.

I dunno about you but I cannot even recall what I had for tea a week last Tuesday – if detailed records are not available then a professional’s chance of credibility in the court environment is next to zero.

I’m not blaming the lawyers but clearly it is a nonsense to trot out such stats free of context.

@ A&E

I imagine those working in spheres like child protection might see it differently?

I imagine that is so but would Peter Connelly and Victoria Climbie agree with them?

You will now argue that we don’t know how many other children would have died or been abused were it not for child protection specialists and you will be quite correct.

As I said, their value is not measurable.

26. the a&e charge nurse

[25] Peter Connelly and Victoria Climbie died after suffering horrendous abuse – some say they were failed by the system
http://www.city-journal.org/html/11_2_oh_to_be.html

But at least in principle they had a chance to be rescued – put it this way, who would argue that similar patterns of violence inflicted on children would reduce without some form of professional surveillance?

@ A&E

who would argue that similar patterns of violence inflicted on children would reduce without some form of professional surveillance?

My point is that we don’t know one way or the other.

There is certainly an argument that, when the state takes responsibility for preventing abuse and implies infallibility in being able to do so, others feel preventing it is no longer their responsibility.

So whereas, previously, extended family, neighbours and others in the community would have felt a duty to get involved and try to solve the problem, they no longer do so. And when abuse is discovered there seems to be a reluctance, on the part of the “professionals”, to prosecute and punish the guilty and instead they try to apply more holistic sociologically based remedies designed to “help” the perpetrators and save the family unit.

These efforts are often hampered by the kind of bureaucratic atrophy mentioned in the OP and, sometimes, they go wrong. In the cases cited above, they went spectacularly wrong.

Excellent post. Thank you.

One of the huge problems is that, thanks to the Tories’ policy of shutting down rather than renewing industry in the 1980s… and assuming that the service sector was the future of Britain, there are hundreds of thousands, if not a million and more people for whom there is no “suitable” job.

Simply put (and I work with people who are unemployed, so I do know a bit about this), there are some people who are not happy or fulfilled unless they have done a hard day’s work, what they call men’s work. (I’m sorry if that offends the politically correct, but these are the facts as the people who are affected see them).

They don’t want office work. They don’t want to type. They don’t want to be on the phone or on a till. They want to weld, fabricate, fit, join, build, labour …in a factory.

Well, we can’t always have what we want, it’s true. But maybe if we realised that many of the unemployed people really just can’t do the jobs that are on offer today, we would see that we have to try to find a way to accommodate people whose talents are in their strength or practical skills, rather than their ability to take orders, or complaints in a call centre or sell aftercare insurance to people buying a cooker.

I assume that this is an England only policy (and I live in Scotland), but I doubt seriously that it will work, for all the reasons that you state above, and for the fundamental reason that people need jobs that they can do… and too many people don’t have them.

@3 “Do the majority here make sense of this statement and am I just stupid or do others here have difficulty grasping what any of that actually means?” Well, it does seem pretty straightforward, so I suppose the answer to your question is yes, you are stupid.

@27 “So whereas, previously, extended family, neighbours and others in the community would have felt a duty to get involved and try to solve the problem, they no longer do so.” Really? And you’re basing that claim on what evidence, exactly?

” And when abuse is discovered there seems to be a reluctance, on the part of the “professionals”, to prosecute and punish the guilty and instead they try to apply more holistic sociologically based remedies designed to “help” the perpetrators and save the family unit.” Really? And you’re basing that rant on what evidence, exactly? By the way, being able to quote the names of a couple of children who died at the hands of abusive “carers” doesn’t really count as evidence.

@3 “Serious question – Do the majority here make sense of this statement and am I just stupid or do others here have difficulty grasping what any of that actually means?” Well, it seems pretty simple so, yes, you’re stupid.

@27 “So whereas, previously, extended family, neighbours and others in the community would have felt a duty to get involved and try to solve the problem, they no longer do so.” And you’re basing this claim on what evidence, exactly?

“And when abuse is discovered there seems to be a reluctance, on the part of the “professionals”, to prosecute and punish the guilty and instead they try to apply more holistic sociologically based remedies designed to “help” the perpetrators and save the family unit.” And you’re basing this claim on what evidence, exactly? Note, being able to name a couple of children who died at the hands of abusive family members doesn’t count as evidence.

31. Chaise Guevara

“Well, it seems pretty simple so, yes, you’re stupid.”

Wow. What a lovely person you are. What did Dave do to you?

Seconded Chaise

33. So Much For Subtlety

13. Chaise Guevara

For a given value of “harmony”, to whit: “the proles knew what would happen to them if they mouthed off”.

I dunno. Let’s take Britain between, say 1892 and 1929 – a period of exceptionally low crime even by British standards. 1892 happens to be the year that the first Indian-born member of Parliament was elected. Dadabhai Naoroji for the seat of Finsbury. And 1929 happens to be the year that the third Indian-born member of Parliament lost his seat. Shapurji Saklatvala the member for Battersea North.

The former happened to be a founder of what became the Indian National Congress. The latter one of the few Communists elected to office in Britain.

So not much harmony given someone committed to genocide was elected. But he only killed people with his mouth. And notice that no one shot them, no one beat them up, no one refused even to print their speeches in the press. All very civilised.

I have no idea what period you’re talking about but it has nothing to do with Britain

34. So Much For Subtlety

26. the a&e charge nurse

But at least in principle they had a chance to be rescued – put it this way, who would argue that similar patterns of violence inflicted on children would reduce without some form of professional surveillance?

Yes I would. We would then punish such people through the criminal justice system and hence deter. Instead of palming the problem off to third rate college graduates with third rate degrees in witch doctorting basically. What is more we get more of whatever we pay for. We pay a lot for social dysfunction and hence we get a lot more of it. If we stopped paying, we would get less of it. And more of these children might be saved such a fate.

Crimes like the death of Baby P are a direct product of the welfare state and the dysfunction it produces. That is not to say that no such deaths would occur in other societies, but that particular death would not have.

Tris

One of the huge problems is that, thanks to the Tories’ policy of shutting down rather than renewing industry in the 1980s… and assuming that the service sector was the future of Britain, there are hundreds of thousands, if not a million and more people for whom there is no “suitable” job.

The Tories did not shut down industries and they certainly did not have a policy of doing so. But even if they did, where is there a single person in Britain for whom there is no suitable job? What precisely is it about these people that means they cannot pick fruit or drive a taxi?

Simply put (and I work with people who are unemployed, so I do know a bit about this), there are some people who are not happy or fulfilled unless they have done a hard day’s work, what they call men’s work. (I’m sorry if that offends the politically correct, but these are the facts as the people who are affected see them).

Good for them. A pity it is irrelevant as I can’t think of a single case of lethal child abuse that involved such people in recent times.

But maybe if we realised that many of the unemployed people really just can’t do the jobs that are on offer today, we would see that we have to try to find a way to accommodate people whose talents are in their strength or practical skills, rather than their ability to take orders, or complaints in a call centre or sell aftercare insurance to people buying a cooker.

Sorry but this is bollocks. Why can’t they do the jobs on offer? Why is it they are above answering the telephone but not above sitting on the couch all day watching TV? Or beating their children to death in rare cases. What is it that is so much more ennobling about being unemployed?

35. the a&e charge nurse

[34] “Crimes like the death of Baby P are a direct product of the welfare state and the dysfunction it produces” – so similar patterns of abuse do not exist outside of countries with a welfare system – such a claim sounds as crazy as the ‘vast form filling architecture’ riff in the OP?

If there is no paper trail it makes it all the easier for seriously abusive parents to move from one borough to the next in order to avoid detection or accountability.

The whole “troubled families” thing is just victim blaming. It’s a line the Tories use to pretend that poverty is poor people’s own fault rather than an inherent feature of the system.

37. Man on Clapham Omnibus

All this is ultimately about poverty and poor people being variously interpretated in terms of their inability to compete in the market place. The reality for these people is they assume a set of behaviours and a cultural context for those behaviours .I know of many professionals that are equally dysfunctional but because they are middle class they can can pretty much do as they please. I suspect giving these people the resources directly through material benefits without all the ‘middleclass speak’ would do a lot more good. Better homes for example will have an immediate impact on educational achievement and health.

38. Tax Obesity, Not Business

Tris @ 28:

“One of the huge problems is that, thanks to the Tories’ policy of shutting down rather than renewing industry in the 1980s… and assuming that the service sector was the future of Britain, there are hundreds of thousands, if not a million and more people for whom there is no “suitable” job.”

I am afraid that is so wrong in so many ways .

Firstly, manufacturing industry in developed countries has from at least the 70s been set on a path of seeking ever-greater productivity – with more automation and fewer jobs – in order to compete with lower-wage economies. In the UK, conservative trade unions resisted this vigorously, being one of several factors (national complacency about ‘winning’ the war; high taxation; investing in social welfare in 1945 rather than in the productive base , while Germany invested in the productive base to fund a far superior welfare state from the proceeds of investment; etc) that held back the UK economy and resulted in our economic decline. Even if we were now the first or second largest manufacturing economy (rather than the sixth or seventh, which we are – and higher than France, by the way!), the number of manufacturing jobs in the UK would have declined rapidly. Mere metal-bashing and plastic-moulding would have migrated to the developing world in any event. The developed nations can compete only in high added-value manufacturing. Mrs Thatcher’s government only accelerated this process.

Secondly, a hundred years ago c.1.5 million people (in a smaller population) were employed in domestic service – not just in homes but in hotels. Often, even quite humble people had a maid; and many working class homes ‘took in’ washing. Following WW1 and particularly WW2, employment in domestic service declined steadily, as taxes on the wealthy increased and labour-saving devices (washing machines, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators) reduced the need for manual labour in the home. People who would previously have gone into domestic service, coupled with increasingly economically emancipated women and the inevitable job losses in manufacturing industry as productivity increased, resulted in unemployment. In the 70s, the public sector took up much slack; but a shrinking economy could not support an expanding public sector….so soon the then Labour government was visting the IMF and asking for guarantees and loans….

Thirdly, the Thatcher governments accelerated a change that would already have occurred. Yes, it was deeply painful (and I speak as one who was affected); but at least it was relatively quick rather than protracted. The expansion of services – in tourism, leisure, finance – began to absorb the unemployed and draw in the economically inactive, though public service employment had to shrink. The idea that there should be a “suitable” job for anyone and everyone became obsolete as we slowly grew to accept that we must all be flexible…

And then Labour came to power in 1997…Gordon Brown imagined that he had found in the City a cash cow that would fund his (often grossly inefficient) social programmes, so financial services’ regulation was divided and reduced…Then the financial bubble burst, parts of the UK were 70% economically dependent on state spending, the deficit was huge …and the rest is history…

39. the a&e charge nurse

[37] “All this is ultimately about poverty” – it’s not quite that simple to the extent that some people from fairly impoverished backgrounds still go on to be good enough parents and law biding (in the main) – but it goes without saying that if you have social problems they will not be helped by lack of choice or chronic financial pressures, a self evident fact that many people seem oblivious to before embarking on the road of parenting.

[36] “The whole “troubled families” thing is just victim blaming” – mustn’t be too hard on the playful young pups, eh?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yS6nWXrPDNk

RE Christof_ff at 17: ‘The children themselves as well as their surrounding communities suffer because an unholy alliance of social liberals and religious zealots refuse to even consider enforced long-term contraception as an solution.’

Are you suggesting that society eradicates or at least substantially reduces what’s popularly known as the ‘underclass’ by means of prohibiting them from reproducing?

Presumably this would mean implanting a long-term contraceptive device in each girl of a certain social stratum, or in families where there are problems (the two categories probably overlap to a fair degree) when she gets to the age of 13 or thereabouts, and doing the same to all girl and woman of that social stratum of over 13 years up to, say, 50. Following from this, any woman in that social statum wishing to have a baby would presumably have to apply to the authorities and give proof that she is capable of raising the child without undue recourse to the state’s funds and in a manner conducive to public order.

Whilst I find this — that is, so long as I am fairly presenting the consequences flowing from your suggestion — somewhat scary, I am actually surprised that it hasn’t been seriously mooted by policymakers. It would prove, I feel, popular with the Daily Mail set and also with working-class people fed up with anti-social elements in their localities. There is also the added attraction that Britain these days does not need a sump of badly-educated youngsters for unskilled work or the army, so such a plan would actually get approval amongst most walks of life.

As I wrote above, I find this sort of authoritarian social engineering unnerving. But if we are in for a long time of economic difficulties, with all sorts of social unrest arising, might not this kind of proposal start to seem attractive and be broached as a possible government policy?

@35. the a&e charge nurse: “If there is no paper trail it makes it all the easier for seriously abusive parents to move from one borough to the next in order to avoid detection or accountability.”

You are correct that maintaining a paper trail can be beneficial. I recall a recent UK case where an abuse perpetrator stayed on the move with his family for 20 years, renting a different house in a different local authority in a very small ring. Thankfully his method of staying off the books is unusual. In the case of Peter Connelly, however, his family and that of a second abused child were on the records of Haringey’s social services department. Thus we have to conclude that a paper trail is insufficient in itself, and that real social work and medical observation are required.

Returning to Don’s OP, where he notes: “For example, looking specifically at one worker’s engagement with a teenager in one specific family, Participle were able to plot the following…”

The limitation of the example is observed by Don, but it makes the point that social workers may no longer be helping people but acting as data gatherers.

38
The consequences of Thatcher’s policies are still being felt in the areas of the UK which had a large coalmining and steelworking industries.
What has replaced those jobs are low-paid service jobs, certainly many jobs are domestic in nature but, unlike those created in the 19th and early 20th century, they don’t come with living quarters. Unfortunately, most of the social housing has been sold-off in those areas (another of Thatcher’s policies) consequently, rents are much higher and go to private landlords rather than directly to those councils. Our housing benefits bill is now millions more than it used to be and is paid to those in work as well as the unemployed.
I don’t know where you lived/living but most people own modern domestic appliances and can carry-out their own domestic duties even with a full-time job.
40
I don’t understand what point you are trying to make, you suggest contraception or ‘eugenics’ as it is commonly known, and then you state that you find it ‘scary’.
Perhaps all boys should have a contraceptive inplanted at birth and then they should take a test when they want to become a father. As far as I am aware it is usually the mother who ends up nurturing the child and the father who is absent.

43. the a&e charge nurse

The OP states “How and why are we spending £9 billion so badly on existing initiatives for these families?” – can you say specifically which initiative epitomise this waste, and apart from greater courtesy what the alternatives are – I mean do you envisage handing the cash directly to families with a general message to pull their socks up?

@42. jojo: “I don’t understand what point you are trying to make, you suggest contraception or ‘eugenics’ as it is commonly known, and then you state that you find it ‘scary’.
Perhaps all boys should have a contraceptive inplanted at birth and then they should take a test when they want to become a father. As far as I am aware it is usually the mother who ends up nurturing the child and the father who is absent.”

Dr Paul @40 was commentating on remarks made @17 by christof_ff. My take is that Dr Paul was being ironic — read it again for yourself and look for the under the line comments. I am unclear whether Dr Paul has much faith in social work, but I doubt whether he believes in eugenics.

Dr Paul @40: “But if we are in for a long time of economic difficulties, with all sorts of social unrest arising, might not this kind of proposal start to seem attractive and be broached as a possible government policy?”

Look again at Dr Paul’s words; there are two possibilities:
1. We are being addressed by an eloquent Nazi.
2. You shouldn’t take the post literally.

44
I joined the debate quite late-on so I didn’t intepret Dr. Paul’s comments as irony but on reading back I see that I I should have directed some of my comments to @17.
Seriously, an eloquent Nazi?

@45. jojo: “Seriously, an eloquent Nazi?”

We deceive ourselves by assuming that all Nazis are buffoons. Nick Griffin is not a buffoon; he has table manners and knows how to butter up to posh sympathisers with money.

46
But doesn’t Nick Griffin deny that he is a Nazi? And in any case, I wouldn’t call ‘buttering up’ to posh sympathizers eloquent.

@47. jojo: “But doesn’t Nick Griffin deny that he is a Nazi? And in any case, I wouldn’t call ‘buttering up’ to posh sympathizers eloquent.”

To prove my case in debate, I could argue that I am not a liberal; it may prove my case, but I am still a liberal.

You may be right about whether buttering up bigoted toffs displays eloquence. It implies other things.

But imbibe and love this non-apoplogy from the Guardian from July 2000: “Lady Birdwood whose death was reported in a brief item on page 6, June 29, appeared repeatedly before the courts for anti-semitic pamphleteering, not anti-semitic profiteering.”

49. So Much For Subtlety

35. the a&e charge nurse

so similar patterns of abuse do not exist outside of countries with a welfare system – such a claim sounds as crazy as the ‘vast form filling architecture’ riff in the OP?

I specifically said that similar cases occur elsewhere. Just not as many. This specific case was entirely due to the welfare state.

If there is no paper trail it makes it all the easier for seriously abusive parents to move from one borough to the next in order to avoid detection or accountability.

And that would matter a damn if there was any accountability. As Baby P proves, it is possible to have reams of paperwork, to be followed for years by dozens of social workers, to have medical reports up to your eyebrows. But none of it matters as social workers are the dregs of the lowest tier of Trot-lite sociology graduates who are incapable of doing their jobs properly. The paper trial doesn’t even help get the social workers who ignored Baby P’s suffering fired. Not even the doctor who failed to notice the broken back.

36. Chris

The whole “troubled families” thing is just victim blaming. It’s a line the Tories use to pretend that poverty is poor people’s own fault rather than an inherent feature of the system.

In modern Britain, apart from some of the mentally ill and newly arrive immigrants, poverty is entirely a matter of choice. It is not an inherent feature of the system given we have, to all intents and purposes, no poverty. Even self inflicted poverty. What we have is voluntarily chosen social dysfunction.

39. the a&e charge nurse

it’s not quite that simple to the extent that some people from fairly impoverished backgrounds still go on to be good enough parents and law biding (in the main)

I like it when other people find areas of agreement.

but it goes without saying that if you have social problems they will not be helped by lack of choice or chronic financial pressures, a self evident fact that many people seem oblivious to before embarking on the road of parenting.

It is simply not true. If you have problems and you choose the path of welfare dependency, then your problems will get worse. If you have problems and you choose employment – even the lowest paid employment in this country – your problems are likely to get better. Because there is a welfare trap that is not just about money, it is also about values. If you spend all day surfing the internet for porn and sex partners, as Baby P’s Mother is alleged to have done, you are going to screw up your life in a way you won’t if you have to get up at 5 am every day to clean floors. The former offers no solution. The latter offers the chance at upward mobility through promotion, improving your CV, social contacts and so on. Which is one of the reasons why passive welfare is so bad.

50. the a&e charge nurse

[49] “I specifically said that similar cases occur elsewhere. Just not as man” – you do realise there is a difference between the ACTUAL number of cases, and the recorded number – data capture is dependent on an infra-structure that takes a proactive approach when children are being abused.

Perhaps you better take a look at this NSPCC briefing – particularly the ‘iceberg’ analogy?
http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/research/briefings/prevalenceandincidenceofchildabuse_wda48217.html

@46 I was under the impression that the BNP was suffering a funding crisis.

52. Just Visiting

Had an interesting chat with a NGO charity worker, working in Africa, in a country after 20 years of on/off civil war. Farmers planted their crops only to have to flee before they could harvest – came back later and cycle repeated.

Result – poverty.

The UN and NGO’s helped out, with hand outs.

Result, now the civil war is long over, the people are not farming their fields, not solving their own problems – they have become dependent on NGO’s to solve them for them. A foot bridge over the river is needed? A well needs sorting out? No one takes action, everyone waits for the NGO to provide.

The women I met, told me that the NGO role has now shifted – no longer giving out ‘welfare’, but instead working with villagers so that they plan and work to solve their own problems. Sure, maybe some bags of cement will be provided, later on in a project: but the villagers themselves must have moved the project on themselves, built foundations, collected necessary timber work etc etc.

The analogy to the UK welfare state seems obvious.

A couple of other posters here have said similar – but at the danger of repeating :

It seems to me a fundamental foundation to good mental health, that you work for a living, that you have solved your own problems (with the assistance of others) and have the satisfaction of having provided for yourself and your family.

Instead, the troubled/problem families willing take on the victim identity that the welfare state too often encourages, of being in poverty due to the short comings of ‘the state’ or ‘society’.

If you read my text properly, you will see that I take no comfort in the apparent call by Christof_ff for a kind of eugenic solution to the matter of problems families; indeed, I find it unnerving to think that someone is proposing the neutering of people, even if that method is not permanent, and however unpleasant the behaviour of certain people might be.

What I am also stating is that a time when there are serious cutbacks in all manner of welfare spending, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was such a call, as I am certain that it would prove popular with the Daily Mail, people at the receiving end of anti-social behaviour from such people, and policymakers eager to save government money.

Anyone who thinks that I am in agreement with Christof_ff’s views should read again what I wrote. You will thus have to conclude that I am no Nazi, although it is nice to be accused of being eloquent.

Don’t forget where the nazis got those eugenics ideas from – amongst others The Fabian Society, although I believe they have apologised now.

Re Trooper’s comment at 54, there is a lengthy piece by Diane Paul, ‘The Left and Eugenics’, Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume 45, no 4, October 1984.

I’ve often wondered why Stalin didn’t adopt eugenics during the 1930s, as it would have fitted in with his authoritarian programme of national development, and it was popular, as the above article shows, with those other supporters of authoritarian national development, the Fabians.

Perhaps it was because of his wonky arm, which may well have put him in the category of ‘defective’.

56. So Much For Subtlety

55. Dr Paul

I’ve often wondered why Stalin didn’t adopt eugenics during the 1930s, as it would have fitted in with his authoritarian programme of national development, and it was popular, as the above article shows, with those other supporters of authoritarian national development, the Fabians.

Perhaps it was because of his wonky arm, which may well have put him in the category of ‘defective’.

It is a category error thing. Stalin was a Marxist. He had an inherent belief in the nobility of the working class. People like the Webbs were not. They were not working class themselves. They were the tail end of the Liberal movement and they recognised the moral hazard – if you give people aid, they will become lazy and feckless. Eugenics was the Social Democratic answer to this problem. People who become lazy and feckless should be sterilised so that society as a whole did not go down the drain as everyone became lazy and feckless. Marxists on the other hand thought this was a middle class smear. If workers were given everything they could want, you know, as when Communism arrived, they would become noble and free and philosophers. Not feckless. If they did not believe that, they could hardly be Communists could they? The family that produced Baby P is what the Marxists have been aiming for all this time.

56
Well done SMFS, until the last sentence, you have caught-up on your reading of Marx. Unfortunately, throwing in the case of Baby P is irrelevant, remember his family was the product of a capitalist society, you can’t blame Marxism for that sad episode.

Marxists do not argue that workers should be ‘given everything they could want’ so that, ‘as when Communism arrived, they would become noble and free and philosophers’. Marx posited that the working class has to struggle as a class for itself in order to liberate itself and by so doing mankind as a whole. It is not about their being ‘given everything’ — for who will give them everything? Other classes is society? No, the liberation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself — that’s Marx. No ‘saviours from on high’.

If Stalin ever did really understand this concept of Marx — and there is little evidence that he did — by the 1930s he was leading a social élite that was as jealous of its social ascendancy as the élite in any other society. The workers would be given what (little) was due to them thanks to the élite, and be very grateful for it too. This made him effectively a Fabian, and it is thus no surprise that such arch-Fabians — and believers in eugenics — as the Webbs and Shaw were greatly appreciative of Stalin’s regime.

The statement ‘The family that produced Baby P is what the Marxists have been aiming for all this time.’ is totally baffling. They were almost chemically pure examples of what Marxists call the lumpen-proletariat, and the hostility of Marx and Engels towards the lumpens would make even the most fervid Tory law-and-order merchant seethe with envy.

What is this puritanical reaction when contraception is mentioned?

Of course it’s wrong to single out any particular group of people. Every person of every class should be offered, and encouraged to take up, free contraception as soon as it becomes necessary.

59
Quite, but I don’t think that those who suggested contraception were advocating giving a choice.

61. So Much For Subtlety

57. steveb

Well done SMFS, until the last sentence, you have caught-up on your reading of Marx. Unfortunately, throwing in the case of Baby P is irrelevant, remember his family was the product of a capitalist society, you can’t blame Marxism for that sad episode.

Thank you. The family was a product of the welfare state. Not capitalism. The welfare state created by Fabians and run by Marxists. Nor do I think I was blaming them – I was only pointing out that this is what Marxists want us all to be like – idle, supported by the State, with no family ties beyond the moment etc etc.

Dr Paul

Marxists do not argue that workers should be ‘given everything they could want’ so that, ‘as when Communism arrived, they would become noble and free and philosophers’. Marx posited that the working class has to struggle as a class for itself in order to liberate itself and by so doing mankind as a whole. It is not about their being ‘given everything’ — for who will give them everything? Other classes is society? No, the liberation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself — that’s Marx. No ‘saviours from on high’.

Well OK, they will take everything. When we break from the Realm of Necessity into the Realm of Freedom, the workers, those that survive, will have everything they could possibly want.

If Stalin ever did really understand this concept of Marx — and there is little evidence that he did — by the 1930s he was leading a social élite that was as jealous of its social ascendancy as the élite in any other society.

That may be true of the 1950s or even the 1940s, but in the 1930s the Soviet Communist Party had too great turnover to be a class in any meaningful sense. And the evidence that Stalin was a solid, competent, Marxist is crushing. You may not want to think so but that is like those Christians who say Torquemada was not a Christian.

The workers would be given what (little) was due to them thanks to the élite, and be very grateful for it too. This made him effectively a Fabian, and it is thus no surprise that such arch-Fabians — and believers in eugenics — as the Webbs and Shaw were greatly appreciative of Stalin’s regime.

Sorry but no. The workers were, as far as Stalin could make them, the State. Stalin did not recruit among the Upper Middle Class. He did not think they needed to guide the poor benighted workers. He was not a Fabian.

The statement ‘The family that produced Baby P is what the Marxists have been aiming for all this time.’ is totally baffling. They were almost chemically pure examples of what Marxists call the lumpen-proletariat, and the hostility of Marx and Engels towards the lumpens would make even the most fervid Tory law-and-order merchant seethe with envy.

Lumpenproletariat is just a Marxist invention to justify their hatred of workers who don’t agree with them. It is not baffling. Marx looked forward to a time when people were free – free from material wants, free from religious superstition, free to seek sexual gratification wherever they could find it (like drinking a glass of water in Lenin’s later words), free even from obligations to their own children. Exactly like Baby P’s family. This is exactly the goal they were aiming for.

61
But isn’t the welfare state a product of capitalist society, well at least for the UK.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Matt Cavanagh

    RT “@libcon: The case for spending less on 'troubled families' http://t.co/wHMemVDW” > & here's why I think Don's wrong http://t.co/q0Hjyo3y

  2. Anna Hedge

    The case for spending less on 'troubled families' http://t.co/3KEGBIft

  3. Don Paskini

    The case for spending less on 'troubled families' http://t.co/3KEGBIft

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    The case for spending less on 'troubled families' http://t.co/3KEGBIft

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    #UK : The case for spending less on ‘troubled families ’ http://t.co/S2ylE9vr

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    Based on research by @Comm_Links @weareparticiple and others, here's a case for spending less £ on 'troubled families' http://t.co/jQTPd3DE

  7. sunny hundal

    Labour failed 'troubled families’ by creating a ecosystem of bureaucracy around them. Can Cameron do better? http://t.co/zItY3KWG

  8. Will Horwitz

    Based on research by @Comm_Links @weareparticiple and others, here's a case for spending less £ on 'troubled families' http://t.co/jQTPd3DE

  9. Bernie Samuel

    The case for spending less on 'troubled families' http://t.co/3KEGBIft

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