You're getting there, Hazel. Yes, wards and dayrooms for single mums and their children, but also wards for unmarried men and unmarried women, and accommodation for married couples. With healthcare, schoolroom and child welfare officers on-site, and daily work either cooking, cleaning, maintaining the settlement, laundry or simple assembly type work for outside firms. The cost would be a fraction of the current costs, and the Settlements, if properly managed, could actually turn a profit from the sale of surplus vegetables, contract work and the like.
Ms Blears believes that cases such as Baby P and Shannon Matthews are rare. But the most dysfunctional families, she says, need round-the-clock support from the State – they should be housed in special centres or given a “muscular social worker” who shadows their every move. “We estimated that each family was costing something like £250,000 a year from public sector interventions that were not changing behaviour. They need a personal worker who helps them to get up in the morning, get breakfast and get the children off to school.”
Teenage mothers, could, she thinks, be housed together in residential units rather than in individual council flats. “If you are a young mum simply left on your own, then it’s hard. Forty years ago we had mother-and-baby homes usually run by nuns . . . now you could do it in a much more modern kind of way.”
Some of you may be surprised that both Hazel Blears and I are advocating what is essentially a modern and humane version of the workhouse - the term has such negative connotations. But even Labour have done their sums; the increase in bastardy from the late '70s has been exponential. Costs are now unsustainable. Only the most radical ideas such as Community Settlements for the underclass can hope to make any impact.