29 July 2012

Troubled?

I was listening to a programme on the radio this week when they were discussing the ethics of the latest government programme in my country to work with troubled families. The programme is being spearheaded by Louise Casey, who was bought in to advise the current government following the riots that took place in many cities in the summer last year.  Many families were interviewed to put together the report, their interviews make for stark reading.

The report backs dealing with the whole family rather than single issues such as crime, mental health or poor school attendance by children. The intervention is expected to continue until a family no longer needs support (it doesn't detail how this will be decided).  The report also talks about generation after generation of the same behaviour such as violence, abuse, crime and poor educational attainment.

The programme and report is not without its detractors. Why should those who cause the most problems have money spent on them in this time of austerity. The report was too narrow.  What about the families that do not meet the criteria to be included in the programme but are close to being that way.

My immediate reaction was about time. It has been clear to me for some time that to divert public funds towards helping families such as this would be money well spent, if it could reduce the costs to the NHS, the police, education, social services etc. Unfortunately in our target obsessed society the results of this would be hard to measure and will take a long, long time to achieve. Having read the reports and various articles in the media I am hopeful but not convinced that this programme will achieve what it sets out to do.

The report expresses, to my mind, surprise that the problems they encountered during their research were passed from generation to generation. That if as a child you had no stability, attention or care you could some how have these skills when you later become a parent. How can anyone bring up children to be responsible and respectful members of society, who want to and can learn, who become economically active, who have no desire to commit crime, who have no mental health issues if they have not acquired these skills themselves. We cannot learn to read very easily without access to books and words, or learn to add up if we don't know our numbers first.

If, as a child, your home life is chaotic, violent and abusive your are unlikely to be able to achieve at school.  Concentration, application, and learning will be really difficult.  If you leave school without any qualificaitons, and in alot of cases unable to read, finding work will be very hard.  Without an income life is harsh.  Is it any wonder the cycle continues. 

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