Millionaire Cameron is riding in on his moral high horse to save ‘troubled’ families. So the government agenda of blame and simplistic thinking continues. Yesterday, Cameron announced his programme of rolling out ‘troubleshooters’ to help ‘problem’ families.
I don’t know where to start in picking apart this policy initiative which, on a shallow level, seems to be fine (apart from the language which is shocking and couched in prejudice and blame that this government is becoming quite skilled at). Coordinating approaches across different agencies is all well and good, it is when you look at the details, the costs the figures and the language that this proposal shows Cameron up for the sham that we know he is and his PR background comes to the fore as he believes the public stupid enough to believe his agenda.
Ironic that his proposal to ‘troubleshoot’ comes on the day that Community Care reports that the government is reneging on Munro’s recommendations to support Early Intervention as a statutory duty of Local Authorities.
But let me take it back to Cameron’s ‘Troubleshooting’ plan to look at.
The headline proposal is that 120,000 of ‘Britain’s most troubled families’ will be helped. Troubled. Troubled is poverty. Troubled is being marginalised. Troubled is being targeted by government policy.
The Independent lists the ‘criteria’ to be considered ‘troubled’ by the government
Problem family? The seven criteria
* No-one in the family is in work.
* The family is living in poor or overcrowded housing.
* No person has any qualifications.
* Mother has mental health problems.
* At least one parent has a long-standing illness or disability.
* The family has a low income.
* The family is unable to afford a number of food or clothing items.
You’ll be happy to know that you only need to meet five out of these seven to be ‘targeted’ by a troubleshooter.
So look at that list. How much is about individual choice and how much is about public policy? How much of those factors are related to poverty?
I find the inclusion of –note- MOTHER has mental health problems a little difficult to stomach. Firstly because it increases stigma without explanation and secondly because it specifies mother – whereas the next criterion at least recognises that there may be more than one parent!
It makes me sick in the stomach to think that these elements label a family as troubled. If I were a parent, struggling, I would feel mortified that even potentially useful service would be offered to me because the language has labelled my family as a ‘problem’ merely through poverty. Calling the programme a means to target ‘families with greater needs’ may be have been less stigmatising. Calling ‘troubleshooters’ something else, I don’t know what, would help but this language emphasises blame for poverty. Suggesting that someone coming in to help me with budgeting will really ‘solve’ the difficulties faced is bordering on patronising.
Channel 4’s fantastic FactCheck blog deconstructs Cameron’s muddled thinking about the financing behind it but to sum up, the money given to local authorities will not be ring-fenced and payments will be on the basis of ‘results’ achieved.
This article in the Daily Telegraph has the headline ‘Cameron attacks blight of chaotic families’ says it all really. BLIGHT? Really? That’s helpful for people who might need this additional assistance. It would make me want to push any help back in the faces of those providing it if they thought I and my family are a ‘blight’. Oh, but I suppose Cameron doesn’t think Poor People read the Daily Telegraph, so he’s ok.
And what/who will these troubleshooters be? According to the Independent
A squad of “troubleshooters” will take charge of efforts to combat the criminality and anti-social behaviour committed by a hard core of problem families.
They will dispatch social workers to visit the worst troublemakers, giving them practical advice on how to run a home and raise a family.
Oh dear. ‘How to Run a Home and Raise a Family’. How incredibly patronising that sounds. How incredibly not about the social work that I fight for which is about empowering people to use their own skills and about working on a strengths-based model which looks at what people are able to do and not focus solely on problems. Really? Practice Advice on How to Run a Home and Raise a Family? Does Cameron think we are SuperNanny and Kirsty Allsop combined?