A glance at the figures should show how we are already paying for this growing social breakdown. Over the past ten years the cost of policing has risen by 40 per cent, prisons and the courts by 46 per cent, youth justice by 45 per cent and working-age benefits by 25 per cent. Some forecast that the scale of this problem will double in the next 15 years. How will we afford that?The astonishing reality is that a small number of chaotic, scofflaw 'families' - in practice 'family' is a fecund and promiscuous woman and her numerous offspring, frequently sired by a variety of fathers - cause a wholly disproportionate commitment of public expenditure. Cameron's brave measures of yesterday will have been as much at the urging of George Osborne as of IDS and Frank Field, you may be sure.
Back in March 2010 I wrote in critique of the Evening Standard's campaign for the dispossessed. Apart from taking issue with the paper's repeated use of the phrase 'she fell pregnant' as though this were an unexpected and accidental event unrelated to sexual intercourse - and as if the woman below couldn't link cause and effect, having 'fallen pregnant' eleven times by eleven different men - I was sympathetic as to our moral duty to help the poor and needful.
I wrote "the articles paint a picture of a class of people whose physical, intellectual, emotional and moral capacities are unequal to taking responsibility for their own lives." and "What many of the underclass suffer most from is indifference; no one cares what they do to themselves. There are no neighbours or local leaders to chastise them, or to communicate standards of morality and behaviour or to demonstrate the joy of belonging. The very class of people most in need of guidance, support and supervision from civil society, those with the most diminished capacity, are those least likely to get it, and because it's not the State's job to provide these things, no one does." And that's the evil of Welfarism. I also quoted Simon Jenkins at length - and as his piece for the Standard at the time is particularly relevant today, I repeat it below;
In 19th-century London that sort of local welfare came first from parish and corporate charities and then from the early London municipalities. By the end of the Second World War, London's borough and metropolitan health and welfare authorities were the envy of Europe. That is true no more. The freedom to innovate and decide local priorities has, since the Eighties, been removed to central government, where it rests inert to this day.
Excessive state regulation has sapped the philanthropic urge and disempowered communities. Tens of thousands of Londoners are clearly falling through the net. The reason is that Whitehall tries only to meet the target, not the need.
I doubt if the cases described in the Standard this week can ever be cured by central government action, however much money is hurled at surveys, consultants or task forces. Look at the fate of the “homelessness initiative” or countless wars on drugs. Nor is there likely to be new money, as the public sector girds itself for fewer resources and fewer people in years to come.
I would delegate much of London's welfare fiercely down to boroughs and below, to community and neighbourhood councils, letting them levy small local taxes to relieve the acute poverty which they, and probably no one else, see around them.
But another answer lies in an unfashionable quarter, in reverting to the voluntary and charitable sector from which London's welfare state emerged. We thought we could do without soup kitchens, the Salvation Army, church day centres, charity lying-in hospitals, citizens advice and private colleges. Now I am not so sure.And here Cameron can bring together the strands of his reform policy; Localism and Welfare Reform, if he has the drive and the commitment. But will Whitehall ever allow it?