Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

Coalition must resuscitate its faltering ‘family-friendly agenda’

The Government is failing to deliver on its promise to strengthen family policy and the delay is fuelling social breakdown, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has said in a column for The Times.

Despite a host of commitments to tackle family breakdown while in opposition, the Conservative party has done little to fulfil its pledge.

CSJ research has consistently highlighted the damaging impact of family breakdown – nearly half of all children born today will see their parents split up by the age of 16 and a child not growing up in a two-parent family is 75 per cent more likely to fail at school.

The CSJ has urged the Government to use the spending review in June to earmark funds for eliminating the 'couple penalty', which means many low-income parents lose benefits if they register as a couple.

In The Times on Wednesday, the CSJ’s Dr Samantha Callan said the Government “seems to have thrown in the towel when it comes to developing a clear and coherent strategy to strengthen families”.

She reiterated the point that, pound for pound, a transferable tax allowance for married couples would do more to help poorer couples than further increases in personal income tax thresholds.

The column was published a day after a report from the Government’s social justice strategy showed that families are becoming increasingly unstable, with about 300,000 couples separating each year.

Samantha added: “The Prime Minister has talked about the social recovery that must accompany economic growth, but that cannot be delivered by state employees. Parents are the key to building one nation of equal opportunity and social justice.”

A welfare system that transforms lives is long overdue

Landmark reforms to Britain’s chaotic welfare system could release the power of work and tackle welfare dependency – but the changes must form part of wider attempts to create jobs and reverse social breakdown, the CSJ has said.

During a number of media interviews, the CSJ said the changes – many of which started being implemented this month – should send out a signal that work is the surest route out of poverty.

Writing for the Financial Times, CSJ Managing Director Christian Guy said the reforms would have no overnight impact, but could vastly improve a welfare system that often traps people in dependency.

The package of reforms – which includes capping benefits at £26,000 per household – came under attack from church leaders who labelled them unjust. But in a blog for the Spectator, the CSJ challenged the criticism, adding that the overhaul is not “about saving money, it’s about saving lives”.

CSJ researchers Tom Wardle and Ben Walker have also written a rebuttal to the Church report, saying the changes “signify an attempt at last to tackle the root causes of welfare dependency”.

The CSJ took part in media interviews on Sky News, BBC News and it participated in a three-part series on BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight.

In an interview with BBC Breakfast on Wednesday, Christian responded to a story that the number of people using food banks has risen sharply – saying there are a host of social factors that drive food poverty. He said it was unsustainable to rely on a benefits system as a default for topping up incomes.

The Government’s flagship welfare policy Universal Credit, which was orginally designed at the CSJ, will start to be rolled out in a series of pilots from Monday.

Keeping the pressure up on tackling child poverty

The CSJ is maintaining pressure on the Government to broaden the UK’s definition of poverty to include the factors that fuel social breakdown.

A recent Coalition consultation looked at replacing the current child poverty metric – defined as households earning less than 60 per cent of median income – with a multi-dimensional measure that would include wider issues such as welfare dependency, family breakdown and educational failure, as well as income.

The CSJ, which has been calling for such a move for years, responded to the consultation. In an article for the New Statesman, Christian Guy said: “One of our key problems has been a political obsession with the idea that throwing money at a problem will solve it, regardless of how entrenched its root causes may be.”

He agreed that “income matters”, but said “if politicians were committed to dealing with educational inequality, building resilient families and helping people dependent on benefits become self-reliant, we could start a credible assault on the root causes of poverty in order to prevent it".

Groundbreaking CSJ report on modern slavery gathering momentum

A CSJ investigation which exposed a shocking underworld of modern slavery in the UK has fuelled a major debate on how to tackle the abuse.

It Happens Here, which was released last month, has triggered a number of high-profile meetings, debates and events that will put pressure on authorities to start prioritising modern slavery and human trafficking.

The report, which accused authorities of being ‘clueless’ over the scale of slavery, recommended that a new Modern Slavery Act should be created and that an Anti-Slavery Commissioner be established to provide consistent leadership and hold the Government to account.

Andrew Wallis, who chaired the CSJ’s working group on modern slavery, has been appointed Chairman of the Home Office Joint Strategy Group to tackle modern slavery.

Earlier this month, Christian Guy spoke at an event organised by the  England Under-21 footballer Marvin Sordell, attended by a host of celebrities, to raise funds and awareness of the problem.

A Private Members’ Bill from Labour MP Michael Connarty, which was drafted with the CSJ, is going through Parliament and calls for companies with turnovers of more than £100m a year to publicly disclose the efforts they are making to ensure their supply chains are free from modern slavery.

The report is regularly referenced in parliamentary debates and is increasingly regarded as the most comprehensive review of its kind.

CSJ launches new criminal justice programme

The CSJ has launched a major research programme that will develop policy solutions to some of the most entrenched criminal justice problems in the UK.

The project, which will run throughout the year, follows up on previous research  the CSJ carried out on reoffending and prison reform, youth justice, gangs and policing.

A host of topics will be studied from reforming prisons and community sentences  to  gangs and the role of the third sector in the ‘rehabilitation revolution’.

If you want to contribute or find out more we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact edward.boyd@centreforsocialjustice.org.uk.