- IoI Forum
- Social Policy Forum
- Date: Event Archive
For the current series of the Social Policy Forum, click here.
Thursday 26 November 2009
Family intervention policies
When Gordon Brown announced that teenage mothers would be housed in residential units, the initiative was dismissed by some commentators as the desperate gimmick of a beleaguered government. But Family Intervention Projects (officially rolled out across the country on 4th November) are arguably the logical extension of years of official intervention into family life. From preventing anti-social behaviour to forming the character of the next generation, it is increasingly asserted that the early years of childrens' development are key to shaping our society.
The parental role has never seemed more important, this month a report by Demos argued that 'parents are the primary character builders in our society'. But does a plethora of official interventions, from Family Intervention Projects, to Sure-Start, help or hinder parents in bringing up their children? Are the first three years of childrens' lives really so crucial to determining their life chances, and is parental influence on children the most important one? Should we be arguing for complete parental autonomy, or do we think that, even if some interventions are authoritarian in form some parents may need an official helping hand now and again?
'Building Character: parents are the principle architects of a fairer society', by Jan Lexmond and Richard Reeves, 9 November 2009
Wednesday 14 October 2009
The Public Sector Crisis: is Marketisation and Politicisation to Blame?
Toby Marshall asked if the encroachment of the market and politics are really to blame for the sense of crisis in the public sector of if this is a symptom of a broader ideological malaise about the role of the state. He wasintroducing this topic in the run-up to his Battle of Ideas discussion Working for the State: public service or gravy train?.
Michael Gove, What is Education For?
Michael Sandel's 4th Reith Lecture on "The New Politics of the Common Good"
In Defence of Targets, by Michael Blastland
Thursday 24 September 2009
What role for the Third Sector?
According to the government what makes the Third Sector distinctive is that it is ‘value-led for public benefit’. In England, the Third Sector is made up of a variety of voluntary and community organisations, both large and small, both lobbyists and service providers - 500,000 operating at a local level, and 140,000 mainly small charities, most of which are reliant on volunteers. Added to this are cooperatives with millions of members, housing associations worth billions of pounds, and social enterprises. Policy-makers are particularly fond of promoting those groups, like social enterprises, that are thought to be the ‘authentic and distinctive voice for residents and service users’, and that can help build community cohesion. But while some groups may be ‘well placed to understand what people want and how their needs can be met’ to what extent do they really represent the communities in which they operate?
For instance, according to the Office of the Third Sector, many of the 17,000 BME groups ‘rely on public sector funding for their survival’. Does their ‘reach and understanding’ mean that they have an important role to play in communities, or does their dependency on State patronage suggest otherwise? A government taskforce recommends that voluntary and community groups work together with business to support communities at ‘risk of fracture due to the downturn’ and so ‘mitigate the impact of the recession by building stronger communities’. In turn, businesses are encouraged to worry about their ‘community footprint’ and to engage in a process of ‘responsible downsizing’ to manage the ‘effects of the downturn on local communities’.
Can the government’s renewed Compact with the sector truly safeguard its independence or is it already too late? What is it about the relationship with the State that should concern voluntary and community organizations? Are they now expected to help manage the economy and people’s expectations too? Should community groups be spending their time developing a ‘business case’ or working to support people in their communities? Should businesses be ‘delivering against community need’ or is this a distraction from the need to generate wealth and engage in productive activity in the economy?
Compact refresh consultation launched, Cabinet Office, 20 July 2009
Taskforce calls for effective partnerships across sectors to beat the recession, Cabinet Office, 21 July 2009
Tuesday 14 July 2009
The cut-price state: miserable austerity or freedom and accountability?
As the seriousness of the economic downturn becomes ever more apparent, there is a growing consensus that the state of the UK's public finances are unsustainable. And yet, for all the talk of making ‘hard and painful’ choices, neither of the major parties seem prepared to face up to just how profound the crisis is. While Brown re-runs old arguments - ‘Labour investments vs Tory cuts’, the Conservatives have been coy about their own spending plans. In reality there is little to choose between them. The government talks about making ‘efficiency savings’ and David Cameron about achieving ‘more for less’. Likewise, he makes the case for greater accountability but isn't this on the New Labour agenda too? Meanwhile economists' warn of the gathering storm ahead, and the sacrifices to be made.
Instead of tired and evasive rhetoric, it’s time to have an honest debate about public spending, and ask some important questions. Such as, what role should the public sector be playing in society and in the economy? Can the welfare state be reformed, can public money be put to better use? Tory leader, David Cameron has argued that a ‘post-bureaucratic society’ is the key to balancing the books, as well as cutting down the over-weaning state. Could fiscal austerity, in this way, be a catalyst for essential reform of public services, and getting the state out of people's lives? Or does the obsession with auditing and financial transparency risk creating even more red tape and regulation to keep things in check?
Where your money goes: the definitive guide to public spending
House of Common Treasury Committee Report: Budget 2003 (Read part 3)
Public Spending: Why are they insulting our intelligence? by Rob Killick, 12 June
The Age of Austerity, by David Cameron, 26th April 2009
‘A new politics: We need a massive, radical, redistribution of power’, by David Cameron, 25 May 2009
Public Domain: Rhetoric and Reality on red tape, by Colin Talbot, 5 June 2009
Public Spending we could do without: your thoughts (Join the debate)
Tuesday 26 May 2009
The Welfare State: What's it for?
With cuts in public spending looming, the question of the welfare state can no longer be brushed aside. Once celebrated as a keystone of post-war Britain, the welfare state is today accused of fostering a dependency culture that traps millions.
But is it only the long term unemployed who are dependent? Some argue that the ideology of welfarism has fostered a climate of benign government intervention into all lives which is profoundly illiberal. On the other hand, there are people who are genuinely dependent. Some argue that the state doesn’t meet their needs sensitively enough. But when needs are defined psychologically as well as physically, this becomes a fraught question.
So what is the role of the welfare state today? Is an expansion of its role inevitable in a recession? Is welfare incompatible with personal freedom and independence? Should the state attempt to ‘manage’ people away from dependence even if it means a deprivation of their liberty in the short term?
Declaring Dependence, Declaring Independence: Three Essays on the Future of the Welfare State (pdf), Centre for Independent Studies
The Receding Tide: Understanding Unmet Needs in a Harsher Economic Climate, Young Foundation, January 2009
When Hassle Means Help: The International Lessons of Conditional Welfare, Policy Exchange, 15 October 2008
Tuesday 7 April 2009
The "White Working Class": forgotten victims, conveniant fictions, or just like everyone else?
Sources of resentment, and perceptions of ethnic minorities among poor white people in England, Report compiled for the National Community Forum
Who cares about the White Working Class?, Runnymede Trust
Tuesday 17 February 2009
Are low aspirations to blame for a decline in social mobility? According to Hazel Blears, a culture of worklessness and low expectations is holding some of the poorest communities back. Young people, she says, need to be taken out of the narrow confines of such localities and inspired to better themselves. Will inspiring young people revitalise poorer neighbourhoods, or does this approach with its behavioural focus risk pathologising communities that otherwise retain strong ties? Why do inner-city communities (of mixed ethnicity) appear to be more aspirational than the people of (predominantly white) traditional working class towns? Will the ‘Inspiring Communities’ initiative create a generation of young community leaders, or create introduce more bureaucracy into interpersonal relations?
Introduction by Dave Clements
Supporting Communities to Support Individuals, Department of Communities and Local Government, 13 January 2009
Aspirations and Attainment in Deprived Communities – Discussion Paper, Cabinet Office, 13 January 2009
Short summary can be read here
New Opportunities White Paper (Particularly the section ‘Supporting Communities to Support Individuals’), Cabinet Office, January 2009
Tuesday 20 January 2009
The Future of Community: Reports of a death greatly exaggerated?
We are constantly being told that we are losing a ‘sense of community’. But is the notion of community actually under threat from the very thing supposed to protect it: relentless government intervention?
The family and collective institutions have certainly suffered in the face of market forces and moralising. But arguably a far bigger threat to social solidarities comes from the crisis of political confidence. Has replacing a political vision for society with instrumental attempts to create ‘community’ not only given rise to unelected ‘community leaders’, but also formalised community relationships to the detriment of traditional freedoms?
If genuine communities are to flourish do we need a space, free from official intervention, where people can confidently negotiate their own relations?
The Future of Community: Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated (Pluto Press, 2008)
'Future of Community' blog