Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Who remembers Karen Matthews?

If your memory is good, you may recall that in 2008 Karen Matthews, mother of seven children, caused furore when she attempted to stage a kidnapping for cash of her daughter Shannon. There were several acres of print comment about the curse of the underclass and how Welfarism was making things worse, not better. Even before the financial crisis, Iain Duncan-Smith wrote;
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?  


Guthrum said...

I agree with you one hundred per cent on this, but it is not going to happen for two reasons.

1. The 'professionals' have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, no matter how many times they fould up and get it wrong. They are always learning from their mistakes until the next time.

2. There is a fighting rear guard action being fought on all fronts against any reform of the State constructed over the last fourteen years.

ACPO are fighting the Home office

The BBC talk of protesters not rioters, and give a nightly account on both local and national TV of stories of the devastating cuts, even though the state will still be spending more at the next general election that it was at the last.

James Higham said...

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.

That seems most significant point today. It's still not going to deal with those "families" Raedwald was referring to.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

"Cameron can bring together the strands of his reform policy; Localism and Welfare Reform"

From where I sit, it doesn't look as if he has the slightest genuine interest in localism; all his pronouncements so far on this matter have been about more central state action, more top-down stuff, more power and influence for Whitehall, and so on.

There isn't a localism agenda.

Greg Tingey said...

If you delegate to local councils, you're completely buggered, if my one of London Borough of What the F*ck (LBWF) are anything to go by ...

What SHOULD be done is to surrender the futile "War on Drugs" - legalise the lot, everything..
But regulate abd tax it ....
Would kill 95% of the "gang culture" in about a week ....

John said...

From Simon Jenkins:

"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."

Why must it be 'more' tax? Central government collects enough already just make the Revenue a clearing house for the income - send it back to the councils where the taxpayer lives.

Anonymous said...

A blindingly marvellous post, the sentiment of the comment sears, this sort of stuff REALLY should be on the front page of all the major newspapers.
It is too obvious for them [media or government] to see it...One or two, do though - Jenkins writes with some good sense sometimes.

Grey Tingey:

Indeed, Narcotics = legalise it and control it.

Sean said...

We have replaced, community, church and family with the surrogate family of the state.

The underclass is the payoff/subsidy the middle class are prepared to pay for a quite life and the privileges they enjoy.

Divorce laws are fine by the middle classes but a disaster for the underclass. same too contraception and soft punishment, as and until the middle classes are really threatened by the underclass then the status quo remains.

The riots indicate things might be heading in that direction but its a very long way to go.

The edifice is now so big and strongly woven into the fabric of the body politic it will take a revolution or a paradigm shift to change things.

Dave does not come over to me as a Benjamin Disraeli.

As an aside, even if we default on our bills, then all that will happen is when we get growth again the fruits will be pissed up against the wall of the state as per.

formertory said...

One of the major problems in all this is the manner of injecting some reality into people's expectations.

What are we doing in locking up juvenile rioters? Giving them a criminal record, is what - and in a world obsessed with CRB checks and short enough of jobs for undereducated, not-awfully-bright members of the underclass, we're merely ensuring they'll never get a job and they'll always be on benefits. By depriving them of the ability to earn a living even more than past governments and welfarism already have done, we're shooting ourselves in the foot. And then taking careful aim at the other foot, too.

Seems to me the best and probably cheapest way to deal with juvenile rioters, muggers, druggers, burglars, car thieves and the rest is a Court appearance followed - if guilty - by corporal punishment, 24 hours' stay in hospital, and then release with no criminal record. Repeat as necessary until the age of say 23 (or say three offences if earlier) when you finally admit defeat and lock the little shit up.

Too many of them were being caught on radio and TV expressing contempt for the justice system and ASBOs; let them laugh off a good birching if they can. Even if bravado helps, it'll be less easy the second time... and a bloody good example pour encourager les autres. I doubt there'll be competition to see who can accumulate the largest number of lesions....

But they'll be able to look a future employer in the eye and say "No, I don't have a criminal record".

Never thought I'd turn into a "flogger"........ though I joined the "legalise drugs" camp a long while ago.

Anonymous said...

Sean: "We have replaced, community, church and family with the surrogate family of the state."

Are the police giving rioters a good shoeing the state equivalent of a smack on the arse when all else fails?

In which case what happens when they don't do it?

outsider said...

Yes I remember the pathetic Karen Matthews and her Dewsbury world. I also remember Gary Newlove, who was kicked to death by a gang of drunken (white) yobs in Warrington for objecting to them trashing his wife's car.

These cases are a reminder that neither the emboldened underclass nor gang violence are race issues (though there are associated with semi-ghettos in some cities).

The Newlove case is more significant because he had been trying to get the local police to take some action to stop drinking teenagers making a nuisance of themselves round the local shop and bringing down the neighbourhood. This is a source of crime and misery round the local shop in hundreds of otherwise decent ex-council estates round the country.

The police would be solving these problems if they concentrated their biggest effort on preventing or forestalling crime, as laid down in the old nine Peel Principles, instead of only taking an interest post-crime, if at all.

Switching from the one to the other would, I fancy, require a big but temporary "surge" in numbers deployed before prevention started cutting the post-crime workload.

To my puzzlement, I find increasingly that your often telling suggestions, and even more our responses here and on other concerned blogs, call for something that already exists in parts of the UK: the (non-radical)mosque and the Islamic community control and welfare system practised round it. Is this what we want (short of stoning Ms Matthews to death)? If so, we have a model to learn from. If not, what do we really want?

Raedwald said...

Outsider - why look to Islam when we have our own, established here for 1400 years or so? Secularised if you like, stripped of any mention of Christ, refined by two enlightenments (which Islam has yet to experience), the duty of the corporal works of mercy hasn't yet disappeared from our own culture

Sean said...


Not sure I understand the question or point, but I will give it a go.

The police strangely enough are not the agents of the state, or should not be, but New Lab made a good fist of it making them so.

The police are here to deliver the queens peace, something she takes for granted and we should have too.

The polices job is not to right the wrongs of society, that's our pob which we have contracted out to the state, which is my point.

Dave_G said...

Systems and methods for welfare, control and punishment already exist and have done so for many, many years. Sadly at each 'event' requiring 'change', instead of invoking the old rules they feel that new rules are more appropriate - inevitably money-based - therefore the old rules and laws get pushed down the list of priority.
For all forms of illegal act and most forms of welfare demands there ALREADY EXIST rules to be applied yet they are seldom invoked.