You do not get much for £75,000

The most striking feature of this week’s government announcement of new ways to tackle problem families was the figure work. Apparently the 120,000 worst problem families in the country cost taxpayers on average £75,000 a year. That is the cost of benefits, housing, social work, police time and the rest, as a small army of state emoloyees try to provide support and discipline to families in need of practically everything from their neighbours – or the state as they are known.

The government is right to ask where all this money goes. Why do we need so many different staff and agencies to tackle these problems? Couldn’t one person go in and sort out a range of issues, whether they are in the housing or schooling or benefits box? Will the appointment of a single point of contact by each Council work? Will Councils co-operate? Will they choose people with authority and judgement? Will these new guardians defend the public interest and public purse, or will they take the line of least resistance, acting as advocates of more state money for the families they have to handle?

How can the state, on behalf of the taxpayers, ask for responsibility, discipline and effort from the families it is helping? What should we, and our representatives expect? If a costly education is provided for the children, shouldn’t they turn up? (the poorest areas receive far more per pupil than the richer areas) If they turn up, shouldn’t they show some willingness to learn, some understanding of the power of education to lfit them out of benefit dependency and relative poverty?

If benefits and housing are provided to the adults, shouldn’t we expect those adults to make every effort to find and hold down a job? If training is provided, how much willing participation should we expect? If they live in higher unemployment areas, how much understanding should we show of slowness in finding work? How far, if at all, should we ask them to travel to do a job?

These questions have been around for years, but there has been a reluctance to ask them. It has been an easy answer for government to invent some new programme with a new title, recruit more people to tackle problem families, and to say it is all a matter of resources. Now we have got to the point where every problem family receives an average of £75,000 a year we are entitled to ask what happens to all the money. Surely for that amount we could start to bring the number of problem families down?

What do you expect in return for your money being spent like this? What sanctions if any should the state impose, if families ignore the help and remain a trouble to their neighbours and themselves? What should these new officials do to make a real difference?

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139 Comments

  1. bhagwhan
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Why not just stop the benefits point blank no work, no money?

    Is it not amazing that countries that seem to be fairing quite well at the moment, such as Singapore, do not have any part of their population dependent on taxpayers money that continues from one generation to another?

    If Cameron really wants to be in Number 10 longer than Douglas-Home (someone else who thought he was entitled by birth to occupy it, though without a clue as to what he would do once he got into it) he could come up with vote winners such as the ability for taxpayers to completely “contract out” of National Insurance.

    What is the point of being forced to contribute to a system, where by virtue of your own hard work and thrift, you have automatically discounted yourself from any of the means tested benefits. While because you believe in such things as personal responsibility you get back on your feet asap without having to depend on others.

    If there is a problem with “child poverty” in the UK let others use their money to try and sort it out its not my problem.

    • Single Acts
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      They fear to do so. Once they establish the precedent that taxes are voluntary, people might ask questions about other taxes.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      bhagwhan, bringing Douglas-Home into your analysis does not to support your case. If you read his autobiography you will see that he never expected to be PM nor thought he occupied that position by right.

    • Disaffected
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      John, adults and children alike in poor countries where there is no welfare state recognise the importance of education and how it can provide life opportunities to better themselves. When the UK promotes a welfare state where families are better off on welfare than working the questions and changes you propose make only cosmetic changes for politicians without any change in culture or benefit to society or the taxpayer. The schemes dreamt up by local government bodies would make you despair. The Intensive Supervision Scheme intended to stop children offending is a costly waste of time, but it helps soft on crime Clarke to say something to the media. Lib Dems have insisted the coalition give a 5.2% rise to welfare lifers when workers and pensioners face cuts! 370,000 household where no one has ever worked since the age of 16 yrs- this is not temporary help these people have made it a life choice that the government is supporting.

      Education- needs to radically change. The all “inclusive system” has failed ALL children. LEAs are only too ready to label a child with a syndrome and employ multiple staff to help the unruly child, rather than make the parent(s) and child have consequences. The waster syndrome kids need to be filtered into schools for the disruptive and unable allowing ordinary children- from whatever background- to take their chance and get on.
      Teachers are still of poor quality and have poor qualifications- who can blame able people not want to go into teaching. No support, no discipline, poor pay, poor pension and the prospect of criminal charges for instilling discipline int he classroom.
      Weak lefties come out saying teaching is more than just knowledge. Correct, but they need both knowledge as well as personality. Look at the German three tier system, children finish school at 1pm and do not create the same problems as children in the UK even though both parents might be at work.

      Clegg today announces he is against marriage tax breaks. What a surprise. He is an atheist who does not support Christian values, hence his recent proposal for gay people to marry in Church. Once more, he wants to change the British Christian culture that he denigrates so much. Why does he think he has the right to change our culture and values based on the Christian faith for his own? (personal abuse followed-ed)

      At the beginning of the week our country was described by him as a pygmy nation and by the end of the week the French join in to shamefully decry the UK economy. Does he accept any responsibility for making disparaging remarks about the UK that other countries feel it is right to join in? He has the bare faced cheek to make disparaging remarks about Eurosceptics, using language of fear to bolster his minority opinion, because he has a fanatical dream of getting the UK to be part of a pan European state. He has no right or legitimacy to question other people or to inappropriately label them after the remarks he has made. I hope all the Tory Eurosceptics to oust Cameron and the Lib Dems before it is too late. The BBc is doing everything it can to host the voices of Europhiles and deride the views of others without allowing a right of reply. Patten needs to be asked to stand down, he not making sure the BBC news channels or political debates are broadcasted in balanced or impartial way, per the BBC charter.

    • Popeye
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      I’m with you brother, 100%. This Socialist idea of throwing money at a problem, invent new posts and supply tasks for them has never worked.
      Bring back workhouses I say. It these problem families refuse to work, let them starve, (within reason). Why do they need blackberries and computers supplied? Give them food vouchers (etc etc – ed)

    • uanime5
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      “Why not just stop the benefits point blank no work, no money?”

      2.46 million people unemployed and 455,000 jobs available means over 2 million people will not be able to find work.

      • libertarian
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        No it doesn’t you are wrong. You don’t have the first idea about how the job markets work. Neither the economy OR the job market are zero sum games but being a socialist you have to pretend they are or your theories go out of the window.

      • lojolondon
        Posted December 20, 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

        HaHa – that is if you believe that all the people on the dole do not already have a job ;-))

    • Disaffected
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

      Those so called in child poverty do not spend the money on the children. They buy mobile phones, cigarettes, Sky TV to watch all day. They certainly do not spend it on clothes, food for their children. The more kids you have the more welfare you get. They even have the cheek to demand larger houses where we pay for their energy, community charge so on and so forth. The low paid have to sell their houses to end up in the same care home as those who have contributed nothing. Meanwhile, come all ye immigrants to the land of the free. Clegg wants more immigration, undoubtedly to help him change the culture of Britain that he dislikes so much.

    • lola
      Posted December 19, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Or, put Clarkson in charge…….

      • scottspeig
        Posted December 20, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        Oooh, There’s an idea! 🙂

  2. lifelogic
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    The danger as always is that the small army of state employees actually see the problem families as the justification for their jobs and as a cash cow for their organisations. Lawyers, legal aid and all the army of the state gather round looking for tax payers money earning opportunities (often all fighting against each other) – but do any of them really want to actually fix the problem and then close their departments down – as they no longer have anything to do? I suspect not their interests are served by incubating and exaggerating the problem (there is a similar parallel with the global warming quangos and indeed most government departments, charities and quangos).

    The last thing they want to do is fix the problem they want to exaggerate it and demand yet more funds and resources to “fix” it.

    • Single Acts
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      Indeed, there is no incentive at all to solve the problems because then your raison d’etre is gone and with it your job/empire.

      • Jim
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        This is indeed the embodiment of Parkinsons Law.

    • Bob
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Exactly, it’s a huge taxpayer funded job creation scheme, and it provides no motivation for the underclass to improve their own lives.

      A little discomfort would go some way to providing motivation.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Put more briefly a conspiracy or at least a symbiotic relationship between the
      dis-functional family and the “professionals” to get their hands of taxpayer’s money.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Lifelogic, while there is truth in what you say, it is not the whole truth, is it? Taken to the extreme do we not end up with anarchy? The trick would seem to be to find the correct balance and continually monitor it?.

      • lifelogic
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        If you take anything to the extreme it tend to become absurd. Most things need some balance, some law and order, but the balance in this is way off where it needs to be at the moment.

        The reason for this is that the tax payers (who pay for it all) only have an input of one vote, on countless issues, every five years and the elected person will probably not do as they wish anyway they respond to party in general. So the process is moulded by people (civil servants, lawyers, experts, quangos, charities …) who have no interest in solving the problem or saving money in fact quite the reverse.

        So surprise, surprise, the reverse is what you get.

      • zorro
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

        Racism, inequality, and poverty will never be abolished…..there’s too much money to be made from it.

        zorro

        • lifelogic
          Posted December 19, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

          Certainly the “equality and human rights commission” seem to be doing their best in incubate and exaggerate problems in their specialist field.

  3. Posted December 18, 2011 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    People are dysfunctional because they choose to be so. By receiving unconditional support they never have to face up to the consequences of their behaviour. By all means let’s try and help but if this doesn’t do the trick the best we can then do is to use the cash to improve falling standards in our schools instead so such problems can be mitigated in the future.

  4. ian wragg
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    See what happened in Sweden, despite humungous efforts to help the families, nothing changed.
    Anyone who wants to change will. It’s easy to spray other folks money about in the name of compassion especially when we are bankrupt.

  5. alan jutson
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    The problem John, is BECAUSE we spend up to £75,000 on some families they are like they are.

    Many of these families have been bought up to be all take and no give, all carrot and no stick, its the extreme end result of the nanny State, with very often the children having no sensible role model to follow, so many (not all) grow up to be the same or even worse than their parents.

    If I had £75,000 (tax free) spent on my family, for which in return, I had to do nothing, I think I may be reluctant to search for a job as well.

    It is the System that is at fault here, as well as the people.

    Departments do not talk to each other, Social workers seem to have no commonsense or power, perhaps because of fear of blame over action/no action taken.

    The solution is not easy but certainly one point of contact for everything should be the aim, as indeed it should for all claiments of all benefits.
    Imagine the cost savings of just one form to fill in, one department responsible for everything, whose operatives know the system inside out and can answer simple questions with simple answers.

    Perhaps we could use some of our wounded military men and women as investigators/mentors for these people.

    But the sad fact is, whilst they can use the system to claim huge sums of money, they will.

    Time to get the stick out and limit benefits, if sensible actions do not produce the right results.

    The Big Nanny State is now too big, is being abused by some, and it simply has to stop.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      Alan, I think your suggestion about the “wounded military” is worth pursuing.

      • Catherine in Athens
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        So do I.

  6. Peter
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Why have any new officials at all? Is there any evidence any of them achieve anything. I remember my sister – a social worker for 40 years – telling me they achieved nothing. Their job was to dole out social security. I suspect this is true, because every public enquiry find the same fault with social workers. Why not give do a Bill Clinton? Give the feckless a proportion of average wage for say 5 years maximum in their life time. Hey presto – do you need the army of public employees at all?

    • uanime5
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      The job centre doles out social security, social workers ensure children and vulnerable people aren’t being abused.

      • Peter
        Posted December 19, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        I know that. Where is the evidence that children are effectively protected thus making the expenditure worthwhile? Some of us remember the strike of Lewisham social workers back in the dark 1970’s. I recall studies showed no effect on children in the borough.

      • Winston Smith
        Posted December 19, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        The Job centre attempts to match vacancies with those looking for work and assesses those claiming to be looking for work. Social workers have a wide field. They mainly assess social situations where problems exist. The service they provide varies from excellent to awful, with many cases of the latter well documented.

  7. norman
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Nick Clegg recently launched his version of the failed US ‘no child left behind’ programme – that has, tragically, seen record numbers of children left behind. Let’s hope it works better over here.

    As to all the points raised above the most salient to me seems to be the one point of contact. Ideally that contact should have a lot fewer families to deal with than is currently the case and have a network of specialist advisors he/she can ask but would have to deal with everything. One would imagine this alone would bring far better results but if it was as simple as that it would have been done years ago.

  8. Alan Radford
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Here’s and idea to halve the bill. Stop all state intervention, and give problem families a tax-free income of £37,500 per annum, subject to forfeiture for anti-social or criminal behaviour. We already pay millions of State employees to do nothing, another 120,000 won’t be noticed.

    As others have noted however, the tiny number of ‘problem families’ are a rich source of employment and careers for all sorts of agents of the state. What would they do without them?

    • A different Simon
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Do you think we will have to promise them a guaranteed 2/3rd salary pension on top of the £37,500 as well ?

    • Tedgo
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      With that sort of money on offer we should all become dysfunctional families.

      Many decent families live on half that.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Alas it would just mean very many more joining the queue for their £37,500.

      • Alan Radford
        Posted December 19, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

        My point exactly – the welfare state supports thriving welfarism.

    • scottspeig
      Posted December 20, 2011 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Can I claim to be a problem family? I’d get a pay rise for not working then! 🙂

  9. Single Acts
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Might we tackle the problems of illegitimacy by saying to any and all men, if you have children that you fail to pay for, 50% of your benefit will be taken for 18 years. If you have a second in similar circumstances, the remainder is lost.

    Currently there is no real issue (for multi-parental males) if you have three, four or ten babies. Where as those of us who pay for our own children and would really like another but can’t really afford to, are incredibly bitter about paying for the carelessly created children of others. (Especially when we know that our children are statistically likely to fund theirs in 20 years time!)

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Single Acts, with regard to your point about reallocating benefit, the extent to which it might have an impact on the behaviour of men might also have a similar but complementary impact on the behaviour of women.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      So a man who has 2 children loses the same amount of benefits as a man who has 20 children. Don’t expect this to end well.

  10. Mdr107
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    As a public service worker who works very hard, with a pay cut I take exception to saying we do nothing; most public workers will feel the same, there again they will not read this blog, which they should ” know thine enemy”, but john r does talk some common sense over europe…

    • Bob
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      I’ve tried to engage with left leaning blogs but my comments frequently fail their moderation censors, and CIF just remove my comments. Another observation is that ad hominem attacks seem to pass for debate, so it gets a bit boring after a while.

    • Daedalus
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      I don’t think the comments are saying that public service workers don’t work hard, I know my wife does. But she seems to spend an inordinate amount of her time acting as a Social Worker for as I see it “The Undeserving Poor” rather than doing the job she should be doing as a Health Visitor. The result is that others who could also use her help don’t get it, as they are seen as less of an issue. When a “middle class mother” who is not a problem commits suicide because her postnatal depression has not been picked up it grates somewhat!

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Many public servants do indeed work very hard. They also often work in a poorly directed and structured system, so doing anything useful is often very difficult. The problem is mainly the system and the direction much of what they do produces no real benefit to people.

      Look at the absurd complexity of the tax system for example doubtless many clever people are working very hard to make it even more complex as I write this.

      They do however get about 8% more pay plus about seven times the pension, more sick days, earlier retirement, more holidays and work fewer hours per week and a far better pay off if ever made redundant. So it is not that bad.

      • Boudicca
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        As a Civil Servant, I concur.

        The system makes us inefficient. The tick-boxing bureaucracy is obsessive; management is prevented from ‘managing’ and in my area of work the Minister (a Conservative one) is making it worse.

      • uanime5
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        The problem with the tax system is that many businesses lobby for exemptions that will benefit them. A each company wants different exceptions it results in a very complex tax law. The USA tax law is a prime example of what happens when companies help write the tax laws.

        • libertarian
          Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

          You haven’t got a clue what you are talking about

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Mdr107

      I have no doubt many Public Sector workers work hard, but ask yourself, is it as productive as it could be ?

      From family members and friends who work in the Public Sector, who have also worked in private industry, they all say its a different world, a different culture, a different attitude prevails and it is totally inefficient.

      Yes of course we need Public Sector workers, but we need them to be efficient, and cost effective at what they do.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      Mdr107, Gordon Brown is said to have worked very hard, and look what a mess that gave us!

      But seriously, I applaud people working hard for an employer, and hope the system in which they operate does allow them satisfaction for a job well done.

  11. BrianSJ
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    The ‘deal’ between the State and the individual does need a re-think. Maybe more radical alternatives such as http://www.citizensincome.org/ could be tried out.

    • Tedgo
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      The citizen income proposal is very similar to my idea of a tax free sum which I have set out in recent blog contributions.

      The main problem with the citizen income proposal is the per child element, it encourages breeding. Better to simply to give the parents a higher citizen income on the basis of one child only and no more.

      Money is only one aspect of problem families, it doesn’t solve the problems neighbours and the surround district have with them.

  12. Boudicca
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    The best solution by far is to stop encouraging such families to breed in the first place. The law should be changed so that, with effect from 2013, Child Benefit will only be paid for the first two children born to any mother (unless the second pregnancy is a multiple birth). The weighting for Council housing should be changed, so that families with more than two children gain no extra advantage every time they produce another child; instead there should be a rebalancing in favour of families where at least one adult is paying tax and NI.

    The sanction best applied for dysfunctional families where they resist the intervention is for the children to be removed and placed with high-calibre foster parents.

    • Disaffected
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Spot on. Also bad unruly behaviour is not a syndrome and does not need an army of local authority staff to assess, analyse and consider what extra spending the unruly child needs. Separate them them into schools for badly behaved children so that ALL children from any walk of life can seize the life time opportunities they deserve from education. Stuff the political views and get on with it. The Taxpayer has paid a fortune for a failed system under Labour and renaming failed schools as academies ( a more unsuited word could not have been chosen for the illiterate or innumerate) is not going to change the situation.

      • uanime5
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        What happens if their unruly behaviour is due to a medical problems such as ADHD or foetal alcohol syndrome?

        Also where are these schools for badly behaved children going to be located? Sink estates?

      • Mazz
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        … consider what extra spending the unruly child needs. Separate them into schools for badly behaved children so that ALL children from any walk of life can seize the life time opportunities they deserve from education. …

        http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/pages/about.html

  13. Forlornehope
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    As the army is reduced in size there will be quite a few senior NCOs looking for jobs that make full use of their skills. The army has a pretty good record of straightening out young men who need a bit of assertive support. There could be a good match here.

    • Tedgo
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      That is forlornhope, the worst family in our village is that of NCO (Sergeant). He was a very effective leader of the army cadets but when it came to his own children that was another matter.

      Probably too much discipline at an early age, the children rebelled and were always in trouble with the police. There main defence was there is nothing to do.

      Army discipline is about bullying.

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Agreed.

  14. Mazz
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Throwing money at a problem is the Socialist way. The money would be better spent on education.

    Some people will never fit in with ‘society’, no matter how much is spent on them. As they say, “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink”.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 19, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      Throwing (some one else’s stolen) money at a problem is the Socialist way

  15. pete
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I get the feeling with many that ‘you can lead the horse to water but….’ Can me cynical but whilst I understand that it makes sense to have co ordinators to pull variour agencies together I dont think it will make a jot of difference.

    More than likely you will end up with one case worker being oveloaded with ‘clients’ and all they end up doing is shifting paper and pointing them to agencies that they are already famliar with.

    I think the only way to deal with this is by being more radical – take away the things that feed them…

  16. A different Simon
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Alan ,

    Take out white van men (hero’s in my book) , the self employed and a few others and the vast majority of the population are totally institutionalised and un-entrepreneurial .

    This is hardly surprising when those of us who have gone through the state education system received a Prussian education designed to drive out individuality and talent and turn us into obedient foot soldiers and factory workers .

    The big wonder is the go getters don’t leave .

    The danger is that by getting distracted by the minority who need (or get) a disproportionately large amount of help , we satisfy ourselves with leveling a mole-hill on a collosal mountain .

    • Tedgo
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      So true.

    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      The go getters are leaving. The net migration figures are the yardstick for the level of immigration each year e.g. 500k foreigners in, 250k Brits out.

      • A different Simon
        Posted December 19, 2011 at 12:14 am | Permalink

        A.Sedgwick ,

        As you know a quantitative analysis only tells part of the story .

        I personally think we COULD have the best of both worlds – self responsiblility plus a safety net .

        However , those people who compete for our votes don’t want that .

        This is all a drop in the ocean when you think how much the financial services industry has drained us continually over the last 50 years .

      • Winston Smith
        Posted December 19, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        You are correct. Many ambitious people are leaving to prosper elsewhere. I’ve seen so many of my peers leave for Australia in the last 10yrs. All aspiring middle-incomers, who felt the tax and regulatory environment stifling in the UK. This is where Boris et all get it wrong. Its not the 50% tax rate hitting the economy, its the creep of the 40% rate and the Stealth taxes.

        Analysis of those leaving and arriving would give us a lot to worry about.

        • A different Simon
          Posted December 19, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

          “This is where Boris et all get it wrong. Its not the 50% tax rate hitting the economy, its the creep of the 40% rate and the Stealth taxes.”

          They’ve never had any exposure to the real world so how can they be expected to appreciate the contribution made by little people ?

          I bet that half the scientists and engineers who landed men on the moon and got them back safely would not have made it into the 50% threshold .

  17. Posted December 18, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    The unwillingness to learn at school has always existed as long as pupils, or their parents don’t believe it is necessary.
    Some 50 years ago, when the British car industry had probably the highest paid workers in the country, my sister taught in a school near Vauxhall’s Luton factory. It was very difficult to encourage the children to learn, the majority adopted the attitude of going to join dad at Vauxhall as soon as they were 16, and you didn’t need to learn at school to do that. For girls it was, I’m going to marry a Vauxhall worker!
    Its the same now, but instead of Vauxhall, it is state benefits – we can’t deprive the adults because we mustn’t let the children suffer.
    Personally, I’d bring back the workhouse – those who have never worked should be housed in dormitories in the equivalent of barrack blocks, not in houses needed by those who are working. The only people that I’d help are those that have worked for a large part of their lives and are now unemployed due to circumstances beyond their control.

    • Tedgo
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      So true. We have allowed all the large companies to export the real jobs to Asia.

      In the late 60’s we saw the future with automation, people would work for 30 years and retire on a good pension at 50, making way for the youngsters. We didn’t foresee the destruction of our manufacturing base to the east to satisfy the greed of the global corporations.

      • Bob
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        I think the unions had a hand in it, and government interference.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Workhouses were closed down because they provided so many benefits to the people in workhouses that weren’t available to those outside the workhouse.

      Also what you described isn’t a workhouse but a block of flats. It’s not a workhouse if you don’t work.

      • libertarian
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

        A question to you Uanime5 what line of work is the business you have created and run, in?

    • A different Simon
      Posted December 19, 2011 at 12:19 am | Permalink

      Hostels were tried in the 60’s as a solution for this very problem and didn’t work .

      It might be worth investigating the reasons why .

      All this inconsequential compared with destruction the financial services industry has caused over the last 4 decades .

      Let’s direct the heat where it’s needed .

  18. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    One of the most significant issues behind a lot of state intervention is philosophical (or perhaps political).

    The ‘left’ are characterised as believing that the poor can be rescued, and the ‘right’ are characterised as believing that the poor are not deserving.

    The truth is somewhere in between, of course. Many of the problem families are inadequate, some are feckless. If we are being coldly rational about it the inadequate can be helped, although it may need more compulsion than society is comfortable with. Similarly the feckless cannot be helped and should be isolated as cheaply as possible; another uncomfortable idea.

    But as long as the poor are treated indiscriminately ‘the system’ has failure built into it. The debate is how to spend money appropriately rather than the amount involved. It will need a great deal of heart searching to accept that some (but not all) cannot be helped and should not be helped.

  19. MajorFrustration
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Lets try something simple – well scientific. Lets deprive half of the families of their benefits and see what happens. Cruel to be kind. Suspect that Government will still pussy foot around.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Expect a massive increase in crime. People stop caring when they have nothing to lose.

      • Winston Smith
        Posted December 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        The welfare state has expanded massively since its inception since the late 1940s, and so has crime. So how does that fit your procrastination?

    • Robert Christopher
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      For it to be ‘scientific’ there will need to be a control group.
      This group will need to keep all its benefits, otherwise it will not be a control group!

      I volunteer to be in that group!

    • A different Simon
      Posted December 19, 2011 at 12:23 am | Permalink

      MajorFrustration ,

      How about we try another expirment ?

      Hang half of the thieves financial services industry .

      A quarter of them might not deserve it but they could have contracted an incurable disease anyway .

  20. Daedalus
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I think I would be tempted to take the issue down to a lower level. Identify the problem families as it seems has been done. Then offer each family member £5,000 tax free to be sterilised, particularly it would appear the girls, do a proper job of it something that cannot be reversed.
    Very controversial I know.
    I also agree with Boudicca, no child benefit for more than 2, if you cannot afford them why should the state pay! The way it seems to be working now, with one partner on more that £40 odd K is not right either. If we went to 2 max (with Boudicca s’ get out for multiple births) most of these families would probably jump at the £5K each.

    • Bob
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      It would be money well spent, but suspect they would be back for more, claiming that they were unfairly cajoled into it (because they were off their heads at the time) and had changed their minds (after have spent the money).
      Guess whose side the courts would come down on!

      Our system panders to and encourages irresponsible behaviour.

      • Mazz
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        … Our system panders to and encourages irresponsible behaviour. …

        Couldn’t agree more.

  21. A.Sedgwick
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Dave is in Blair2 mode again.The solution is to have a benefit culture fair to those paying the taxes as well as to those really in need. Throwing more money at a very flawed system is not the answer.

  22. Richard
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Those that exploit the benefits system are only following the economic path laid down for them by the State.
    They are not scroungers, they are simply heavily incentivised to follow the course of action they take.
    So the solution is to make work profitable and to alter the rules for obtaining social housing biased more towards those who work.
    The cost of £75,000 per family quoted shows that there is now much scope for some radical alterations to the tax and benefits system.
    The extra money now being spent on these families will be wasted and will sadly have little positive effect until there is an economic incentive for them to alter their behaviour.

  23. John B
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    If we know who these 120 000 are, and where, would it not be a good idea to re-settle them all in one place – dare I suggest the Afghanistan.

  24. backofanenvelope
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    To those who think this is a new problem, I suggest a little history will help. From at least the Tudor monarchs onwards we have struggled with the poor, who are always with us. Why did we have workhouses?

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      backofanenvelope, “troublesome” and “poor” are not synonyms.

      • uanime5
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. The middle class were also troublesome for the ruling class when they lead revolts against the aristocracy.

      • backofanenvelope
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        Did I say they were? I merely pointed out that this is not some new problem that has sprung on us out of nowhere.

  25. Damien
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    This latest iniative aimed at addressing the annual £9 billion cost (120,000 x £75k) cost of problem famailies is rightly to be approached with some scepticism. I have just read the NAO report which looks at the governments effectiveness in tackling problem drug use that they say costs society £15.3 billion (yes thats in addition to the £9 billion above!).

    The NAO conclusion basically said that there was no overall framework for evaluation. So how will we know that this additional funding has been well spent and effective? What were the alternative options and do the taxpayers have any say or right to be consulted?

    In another report NICE estimate the costs generated by each injecting drug user during their lifetime adds up to £480k, so that NAO figure of £15.3 billion soon mounts up over the years.

    http://www.ohrn.nhs.uk/resource/policy/Tacklingproblemdruguse.pdf

  26. Antisthenes
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    120,000 are just one problem amongst many. The parlous state of the NHS, the state education system, the housing market, the decline of morals and the lowering standards of society in general to name just a few more. These are all symptoms that do not have separate causes but one cause that is common to all and addressing them individually as we do does little to improve the problems. The one cause that throws up so many problems is allowing sentiment rather than hard headiness to shape policy. This has meant that collective responsibility has replaced personal responsibility and self-reliance has been abrogated in favour of the state. Sentiment may have the moral high ground and benefits individuals but it has the low ground when it comes to obtaining the most benefit for society. With the real danger that the society will collapse under the strain thereby in the long run depriving the individual of the benefit they are enjoying . The answer is to return to hard headed policy making. This of course is not going to happen so the problems are going to get worse and the fabric of society will continue to be stretched until it breaks

  27. Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    John there was a very brilliant radio 4 program about a couple of months ago about this topic.

    It was one woman talking (for just 15 minutes I think) about a pilot project she was involved in to transform the way the state interacts with families like this.

    In essence you have a situation where a failing family becomes entitled to all sorts of ‘help’ they haven’t requested and which will not actually address the root issues they face.

    The project I heard described worked by empowering the head of the household (usually the mother) and a social worker who worked with them to allocate services. The head of the household was entitled to interview the people who would be working with her. She asked questions like ‘You come round and find that my son has lost control and is ripping the doors off their hinges again – what do you do?’ and rejects everyone who won’t help her restrain her son (which of course is something standards social workers would be taught not to do). In this way a plan is created which will make a positive difference to the situation as it is, not as it is assumed it is.

    The did not seem to be quite what you think it is. It is not that someone is needed to go in and sort things out. It is that someone is needed to sort out the way the state interacts with the household leader.

  28. Pete the Bike
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Why do we have loads of different benefits, jobseekers, DLA, housing, etc, etc?
    Just have one benefit, one agency and you could save tens of millions admin costs. One form to cover everything, one pencil pusher to look after it. That alone would probably knock 10% or more of the £75k.

    Reply Mr Duncan Smith is currently working on a major simplification of benefits.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 19, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      You ask “Why do we have loads of different benefits, jobseekers, DLA, housing, etc, etc?”

      Because it is organised mainly by the staff in these agencies and arranged for their benefit and their continued jobs and pensions.

  29. NickW
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who has ever been employed in a capacity that brings them into contact with an unselected spectrum of the general public could offer MPs some useful advice.

    There are some people who cannot be helped, and out of those 120,000 families, a majority probably fall into that category.

    When you work with the general public you realise that there are a significant number of people with a variety of mental health issues which whilst not meriting incarceration, do significantly impact on their ability to interact in an increasingly complex society.

    The most important step in dealing with problem families is the skill and ability to work out which ones will benefit from help and which ones won’t. If a family will not benefit from help, then the pragmatic approach is to ensure that society is protected as far as possible from that families dysfunctionality, and expenditure is controlled so that money is not wasted on trying to achieve the impossible.

    When advising children about careers, there are many jobs which involve contact with a highly selected section of the public, e.g. (high finance, oil industry executive), and some which involve contact with the unselected public, e.g., shop assistant, medicine.
    I am making sure that my children understand the huge differences between these categories of career, (particularly when considering stress levels).

  30. So Frustrated
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, You are are, bright, powerful, well connected man – please stop writing about these things and start doing!
    Cameron and his coalition are a nightmare for this country, please, please step forward and give us the leadership we need!

    Reply: There is no vacancy – the Coaltiion has a majority and Mr Cameron wishes to continue as Leader.

  31. Joe McCaffrey
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I prefer things to be left down to individual responsibility, the state should protect indvidual freedoms and punish individuals only when they restrict the freedom and rights of others. The best way to ensure this £75,000 is not wasted is not to spend it in the first place, it is not a legitimate or even desirable function of he state to give people benefits for not working – if people have to get a job they will find one, if they choose not to, the basic conservative principle of individualism should dictate quite clearly that it is they that should suffer the consequences and not the taxpaying society at large.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      2.46 million people are unemployed and 455,000 jobs are available. Thus over 2 million people will not be able to find a job no matter how hard they try.

      • libertarian
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

        Why not invent their own then, just like I did when my factory made me redundent due to closure bought about by militant union activity in another industry?

      • Bob
        Posted December 18, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

        Being an employee is not the only way to get a job. You can do what Alan Sugar, and thousands of others do.

        • Bazman
          Posted December 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

          In an advanced economy like Britain everyone being self employed is not realistic and if you cannot see this then you are just stupid. Maybe they should become peasants and live off the land after failing to establish a business?

  32. Posted December 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    John, u complain about the system, but isn’t ur Governemnet there to be instrumental, we the people can do nothing…u r complaining about issues that you can stop all of this?..if not step down and let people that can, that’s if the Tories can find time away from shoring up their own interests…like cash?…u have a Minister for every service u describe, all on high wages and gold plated pensions AND we the people have to pay taxes to pay whilst they are in work and also retired…..stop complaining stop pointing fingers and do the JOB U WERE VOTED IN FOR and that is get out the EU and serve the country, all of it’s inhabitants and not just the rich and bankers!…we the WORKERS that keep the tax flowing are getting plain fed up of this AUSTERE approach whilst really we are just propping up the rich!…what’s it take to tip it over the edge we ask-stop the staged acts between so called political rivals and start governing for the people!!

    Reply: I am doing the job I was elected to do. Democratic politics is about making arguments and gathering opinion behind the causes you believe in and wish to further. It is about lobbying Ministers directly, and influencing opinion which informs their choices. I do all those things.

  33. Bernard Otway
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    The ONE word NOT used is PUNISHMENT for bad behaviour and all the other transgressions committed by these families ,there SHOULD be CONSEQUENCES and NOT
    being hit by the proverbial POWDER PUFF for these behaviours,which are very consequential for society,not the least the £75000 annual cost.Singapore was mentioned as
    an example of success in our world with NONE of these problems,WHY ? CONSEQUENCES
    some HARSH,as an example many years ago they had a problem of urinating in tower block lifts [Minor but it still concerned them] ,Solution they fitted urine detectors in the lifts which upon detection [very fast] stopped the lift and shut locked the doors,which could only be released by authorised personnel,the miscreants were heavily fined and their
    families put on a WATCH list,the next offence was CORPORAL PUNISHMENT,END
    RESULT is NO OFFENCES NIL NIL,THAT is how behaviour is controlled and MODIFIED
    so that now it just does NOT happen,and more to the point NOBODY is disadvantaged.
    However I see NO appetite in this country AT ALL despite the MAJORITY wanting and believing that these methods really work. We are a POWDER PUFF nation ,that is why
    we are destined to sink ever farther down world league tables for everything,ONE DAY
    historians will look back in absolute wonder and ask WHY?,the ruling class WILL be judged very very HARSHLY .

  34. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    The single point of contact should work, if implemented properly, because specialists are not good at seeing the big picture. The “single point of contact” should be able to call on particular expertise from specialists as appropriate, and if more than one speciality is involved ensure their contributions are complementary rather than in conflict.

    As to education, it is important that all children receive a good education, which does NOT mean they all should go to university. Educational success should be each child achieving the best in accordance with their INDIVIDUAL aptitude and ability. One of the curses of the educational system since the War has been that every big new idea, meritorious though it might be, has been applied to ALL children irrespective of its appropriateness to the individual. For instance, a couple of recent “big” ideas: teach Latin and computer programming.

    If teachers are all equally good, why is it that childrens’ success depends on background and location? Or looked at the other way round, if children’s’ success does depend on background and location how important are the teachers?

    Whoever it is that tries to make an improvement, a change of attitude nationally will help.

  35. Posted December 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Did you know that many local authorities give ‘street drinkers’ rail warrants, so they can continue to travel around the UK pickling themselves?

    Some LA’s have little inter-agency teams that only manage to deal with a caseload of ‘street drinkers’ equivilent to two ‘street drinkers’ per member of staff (easily £75k per ‘street drinker’).

    And like ‘lifelogic’ suggests above. A cynic would say it is not in the interest of these intensive teams for the ‘street drinkers’ to stop roaming the UK drinking, lest they make themselves redundant.

    It’ll be the same here. One arm of government will be saying to the feckless “Have loads of kids and we’ll give you a big house and loads of beer money.” While another spends all day (well 10am til 4pm) lecturing them on how not to spend it.

  36. Mark
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Send in Christian missionaries in place of all the social bureaucrats – financed by charitable donations only.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      That didn’t solve the problems in Africa and it’s unlikely to work here.

      • Mark
        Posted December 19, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        It’s not like our armies of social workers have achieved anything, is it?

        Perhaps you should re-read British 19th century history and see what role was played by the churches.

  37. Barbara Stevens
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    As a working class person, I know first hand what it’s like to be poor, out of work, and near poverty. Its not a nice place to be. However, I also believe in education, and the ablity to get yourself out of the place you find yourself. I did just that. I went back to work to pay the mortgage when my husband lost his job in the steel mills, which he had got 35 years behind him. At 50 in the 80s there wasn’t much prospect for semi-skilled workers, I had to fill the gap to keep the house and two kids, no easy task after being at home for several years. I went to college, passed and got a job. All paid for by us at some cost. No free options or colleges free then. I managed to keep the family from starving, the roof over our heads coupled with a pension from the steelworks. We didn’t have holidays, run a car, smoke, drink, luxaries were for Christmas, and my two kids learnt early; if you want anything you have to work for it. However, the one thing that nearly finished us off was the ‘poll tax’, as one paid on each adult in the house, and we had three at the time. Life was difficult. My point of all this, those who appear to struggle, and make do and mend, work, are the ones who have less in this country. Workers are demonised as having plenty, when there are many who are worse off than those that do.
    Today, Cameron as mentioned morals and attitudes to society, I believe he’s right, now we see single mothers having more rights, houses, and benefits that some. Widows find themselves in situations they cannot avoid, there are always some people different. Yes, we cannot let people starve but we cannot afford to keep people who have ‘never worked’ for a lifetime. Those that have work records, and constant work records are the ones who should be helped once they lose employment, it is no fault of theirs. I have no quarrel keeping these ones who have NI on their records, its those without any I object to. This is where the country should aim, those that do and have worked should be protected, not those who insist on living on the state. Its become the norm for women to get pregnant and expected the state to keep them, even with several different fathers to their children. This cannot be right. Its time we reviewed the welfare state and only rewarded those who have and will work.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      While many people who haven’t worked have chosen not to work there are many more people who haven’t worked through no fault of their own and should not be penalised because of it. The reason that there are over 1 million unemployed 18-24 year olds isn’t because they are all feckless.

      • Winston Smith
        Posted December 19, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        As with most of your posts you write a reply to a point that wasn’t made. I guess it shows the constraints of your thinking, unable to operate outside the narrow-mindedness of the socialist rhetoric that you’ve swallowed. Rather than consider a reasonable comment you mis-read it to fit your extremities. For example, “we cannot let people starve but we cannot afford to keep people who have ‘never worked’ for a lifetime” beckons the reply “While many people who haven’t worked have chosen not to work there are many more people who haven’t worked through no fault of their own and should not be penalised because of it.” There is no suggestion from the thoughtful poster that all the long-term unemployed should be penalised, yet you need to insert that assumption, in order to fit your pre-conceived ideas. This is the classic tactic of the Left used to fool the foolish. It feeds on fear. The fear that any pronouncement or policy initiative will be twisted by the coniving Left to present a the initiator as extreme.

  38. libertarian
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    In the same way that there should be no taxation without representation there should be no benefits without contribution. What I mean is that to recieve ones benefits one must contribute to society, so either through voluntary work, assisting others and various charity/social activities. Benefits to be paid as with work, on a time completed basis. Those people who are single parents with small children to look after can be grouped together to help each other and supervised by a single social worker .

    By introducing such a scheme we can raise the esteem and abilities of people on benefits as well as providing a small return to society and most importantly introducing a work ethic.

    At the moment there is no incentive to do anything or to contribute in any way.

  39. David Langley
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Who are the special ones going to be that dodge the pit bulls and violence when they call on the feckless.
    If they are dishing out largesse then no problem, but if they curb any of the benefits then watch out.
    This is a job that few would relish, they will become known to all the locals and will need protection.
    Why do bailiffs pass by and social workers get no access, sorry but this plan is impracticable, the present system allows protection to welfare staff and shared responsibility to faceless civil servants. I suspect you have no experience of the world down below John.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted December 19, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      If so, then why indeed give yourself a headache and perhaps a bloody nose when you can be seen to be doing a job job tackling something far more benign. But appeasement only lets things get worse, and now is as good a time as any to put safeguards in place and act to make a difference.

  40. Martyn
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    I have no idea how this situation can be around so we get value for money, but:
    – If we pay people to be poor we inevitably get more poor people.
    – If we provide accommodation and money to teenage girls to get pregnant we inevitably get more teenage mothers.
    – If we pay the unemployed whilst discouraging them to find work because of silly tax rules, we get more unemployed people.
    In short, we actively encourage people to be poor, unemployed or single mothers and although this a simplistic point of view, I do support the concept of the State always protecting and funding the poor, sick or disabled people who are genuinely in need of support. But there is a multitude of completely undeserving cases soaking up our money, with an army of people employed at District, County and National level working on their care and support, across whose boundaries exist inter-departmental conflicts, duplication of effort and often different set of rules applying to their work needing a host of human rights and equality et al directors, investigators, checkers-who-check-the checkers and so on. The systems are fatally flawed and we have lost control to the extent that anyone who dares to challenge this stands to be branded as callous, cruel, racist, sexist or with some other denigrating tag. That said, I am a bit encouraged by government talk of their intention to sort out at least some of the problems.

  41. forthurst
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Thius is sort of drivel we have come to expect from the LibLabCon. It’s premise is Cultural Marxism.

    This is how it works: the government, infiltrated by the enemy within, makes changes to the law to the detriment of the health of English society, and then, it introduces countless ‘initiatives’ designed to mitigate the very problems it has created itself.

    e.g. Facilitate mass immigration (etc)

    Encourage young women to live lives independently of mens’ support by providing them with everything a wage earner could provide. That way they can be encouraged to be entirely unselective in their mates and thereby the quality of children they produce.

    Encourage under age drinking and drunkenness by allowing round the clock access to cheap alcohol.

    Encourage other forms of drug abuse by e.g. ensuring a massive production of heroin and the transport thereof from Afghanistan, particularly Helmand province. Afghanistan produces 90% of World heroin now that the good guys are in control; Putin is not happy, but the ‘West’ doesn’t like Putin because he doesn’t like ‘oligarchs’ (thieves and murderers) so maybe our youth are simply collateral damage?

    Close free selective schools and introduce massive compehensives to ensure that there is no ladder for those of modest resources but with potential, but rather an opportunity to co-mingle with the violent and disruptive. Then progressively reduce the standards of exams and marking in order to pretend that education is not deteriorating but improving.

    Governments have created these problem families and now wants to fix them. How about reversing all those laws which created them in the first place? How about taking back the MSM, particularly the BBC in order to remove all the tripe that is used to groom the audience into believing that the disgustingly abnormal ‘society’ created by design is desirable or normal; perhaps replace all the garbage about Hitler and the Nazis with detailed histories of the Bolsheviks, who exactly they were, and who and how many they murdered as a warning to us how we will end up if we do not innoculate ourselves against the danger within.

  42. uanime5
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I tried to answer as many question as I could.

    “Why do we need so many different staff and agencies to tackle these problems?”

    Each family has different problems so it’s impossible to create an agency that can effectively deal with drug addicts, former criminals, alcoholics, those with disabilities, those with low intellect, or have children. It’s far more effective to have multiple agencies that focus on fixing one type of problem.

    “Couldn’t one person go in and sort out a range of issues, whether they are in the housing or schooling or benefits box?”

    It would take years to train someone to be able to sort out every problem they may encounter. It’s far more effective to have people to identify problems and specialists to solve them (like GPs and medical consultants).

    “Will these new guardians defend the public interest and public purse, or will they take the line of least resistance, acting as advocates of more state money for the families they have to handle?”

    Having less money and staff usually doesn’t fix the problem. Also it may not be possible for them to fix the problem no matter what resourced they have.

    “How can the state, on behalf of the taxpayers, ask for responsibility, discipline and effort from the families it is helping? What should we, and our representatives expect?”

    That depends on the problem. If it’s due to a disability or low intellect then often the best you can hope for is that they will be able to live without a high level of support. For addicts it’s that they try to overcome their addictions. For former criminals it’s that they don’t commit crimes.

    In summary that they live their lives in a way that costs the tax payer as little as possible. Getting a job should not be considered mandatory but should be encouraged where appropriate. There’s no point in trying to force people to get a job while there are so many able bodied, non-retarded, non-addicted, non-criminal people trying to get a job.

    “If a costly education is provided for the children, shouldn’t they turn up? (the poorest areas receive far more per pupil than the richer areas)”

    They should turn up unless they have a good reason. For example they were ill, their disability prevented them from attending, or they had to go to court.

    “If they turn up, shouldn’t they show some willingness to learn, some understanding of the power of education to lfit them out of benefit dependency and relative poverty?”

    Strictly speaking this isn’t true. While getting an education makes it easier to get a job it’s no guarantee that you will get one. As many university graduates are struggling to find work it’s no surprise that those with only a basic education feel they have no chance of being employed.

    “If benefits and housing are provided to the adults, shouldn’t we expect those adults to make every effort to find and hold down a job?”

    Adults have to apply for jobs in order to claim benefits. Given how few jobs there are available compared to the number of people unemployed there’s very little that they can do other than keep applying for jobs.

    “If training is provided, how much willing participation should we expect?”

    Training is not provided by the state. Though there are some one day courses unless employers value these qualifications there’s little point in taking them.

    “If they live in higher unemployment areas, how much understanding should we show of slowness in finding work?”

    A lot. It’s not the unemployed person’s fault they live in this area and they usually can’t afford to move. Even if they do move to a high employment areas there’s no guarantee that they will get a job.

    “How far, if at all, should we ask them to travel to do a job?”

    It depends on whether they have their own transport. If they don’t then anywhere outside of the town they live in will be difficult. By car don’t expect people to travel more than 1 hour each way.

  43. Posted December 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Of course, one way to reduce the cost of ‘problem’ people to the taxpayer would be to make the justice system cheaper. I can spend a month or two of my time (about £10/hour net cost to the taxpayer) reporting a ‘problem’ person. Yet, the local authority has to put anything from £100k to £500k at risk to get the ‘problem’ into the appropriate court.

    For example, we were told a few years ago that the EU Injunctions Directive would mean we could put a stop to frauds and scams quickly and easily. All we have to do is pop down to the County Court with the evidence and hey presto (the Office of Fair Trading told us) you’ll have an interim injunction.

    The reality is very much different. An application to put a stop to any scam raking in over a couple of hundred grand actually has to be heard in the Chancery Division of the High Court! Local authorities simply baulk at the costs and won’t do it.

    If you go down the route of a criminal investigation you can’t remove anything that will affect the running of the fraud business – such as their computers. Then it’ll be at least one and if not two or three years before the case is heard. By which time the fraudsters are long gone with everyone’s money.

    It’s the same with petty criminals. The Police can spend a lot of time and money prosecuting them, but the don’t pay the fines and the prisons are full. Even if they do go down it’s only for a month or two and they just meet more criminals and learn to commit more crime in there.

  44. Monty
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I hate to have to say this, but the first thing we have to do is radically change entitlement to housing benefit, and child related benefits. Right now, for a young girl who has no qualifications and few career prospects, the answer is to get pregnant. That is her key to the benefit system, starting with free housing. The hapless bairn is left at greatly increased risk of every type of abuse and neglect, because he or she will never amount to more than a necessary evil.
    My proposal is this: For all new babies born to parent(s) with no earnings or independant means, the state should step in and remove the infant from their custody, placing it for adoption. The young mother is back to square one, with no entitlement to state benefits. You could allow concessions for certain categories, such as those recently widowed by the death of the father, or the unwed whose own parents apply to adopt the baby. That is how we could stop that perverse incentive that generates ever more problem households, and a steady stream of tiny hostages to fortune.
    What provision for youngsters with no interest in becoming self sufficient? Hostels, costing far less than $750K per room, and if you misbehave and get slung out, nothing.

  45. Max Dunbar
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Up here in North Korea (Scotland) the public sector must be looking on with envious eyes at all that cash being doled out on so-called “problem families”. What a wonderful opportunity for job creation. Far from being a problem these families are providing a living for countless Unison comrades. Scotland has been left out yet again. Its those damned English. Keeping all the good stuff for themselves. Equality of rioting nationwide. Its only fair. Has Kim Il Salmond got something to say on the subject?

  46. Quietzaple
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Those who have most often used the 120,000 figure do not command my confidence. The £75,000 sounds like another note of their cuckoo clock.

    The summer riots were not as the same source insisted when he slouched home late from holiday as his promotion of the previously little known word “criminality” suggested.

    I gather HMG’s funds towards this project are from another budget already cut.

    This looks like further scapegoating, as dissociation of the word unemployment from riot suggests. If I was a member of a problem family I’d study how to riot and loot more effectively I think. Hung for a sheep as a lamb as they say.

  47. mominpappa
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    ‘If I had £75,000 (tax free) spent on my family, for which in return, I had to do nothing, I think I may be reluctant to search for a job as well.’

    no one is saying that this sun is given to the famlies , its the cost of a few very dysfunctional families , if one is in prison or YOI that is £4o K , Police , Court s , legal aid , a couple of A&E admissions and you are there . I am sure you understodd this but prefer to present it as a big bundle of cash to spend on beer and fags.

  48. Electro-Kevin
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    “…army of state emoloyees try to provide support and discipline to families in need of practically everything from their neighbours – or the state as they are known.”

    According to many in Tory think tanks we are rich and our wealth should be redistributed as such. (I know how much the millionaire classes contribute and I’m grateful)

    The reality for us (on a supposed middle-class income) is no foreign holidays and a problem family next door – very few of whom have worked.
    (I have left out all the detailed material about the problem family next door, as the individuals could be identified . I fully understand the problems that can occur, as a working MP I take up such cases in my own patch)

    My point is this:

    David Cameron would have it that we are well off. Both we (and the neighbour opposite) have managed to get our kids into one of the best selective schools in the country (not bragging but my boy came top in his year for biology)

    We ask little of the state and contribute our fair share. We live in a humdrum house in a humdrum street and yet – when it comes to applications for university – it is highly likely that our boys are going to be classified as ‘privileged’ and will probably be discriminated against.

    And yet those who have chosen not to work are living next to us to a standard indistinct from our own and are able to claim that they are deprived.

  49. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    This goes to show that it doesn’t always pay to be an honest hardworking citizen in todays Britain.

    Do these people not want to work or have they just given up trying ?

    Many people see these families as ‘good for nothing layabouts’ who – like parasites; take more than they receive from the National purse.

    Perhaps this is just a symptom of trickle down economics – where we hand out Government money to the people who contribute the least. Take Banks for instance, they are estimted to contribute £23 billion to the public purse this year. But they are also are estimted to have recieved over £100 billion from tax payers in subsidies through the privelege of creating our money are charging us interest on it. They can’t even get that right as they’ve received £275 billion through Quantitative Easing. Boris Johnson said that they gave £53 billion to the Treasury recently – his mistake was not picked up by the interviewer who probably knoew less than he did (which is quite a feat). Mr Johnson naturally forgot about the subsidies that Banks receive.

    “A study by think-tank the New Economics Foundation found the average banker destroys ­£42million a year in value while creating just £5million.

    Meanwhile hospital cleaners on £6.26 an hour are worth £10 for every £1 they cost because they prevent superbugs, saving the economy a fortune.

    The shock figures fly in the face of claims that bankers like Barclays boss Bob Diamond – paid £4.4million in 2010/11 – are worth vast ­bonuses because of their ­contribution to the economy.

    Their drain on the country is caused by the cost of bailing out banks brought to their knees by the credit crunch and the ­devastating impact of the ­crisis their recklessness caused.

    NEF found that tax ­accountants who help the rich cut their bill were even worse value, ­costing us £47 for every £1 they create.

    Meanwhile low-paid public sector workers like nursery ­workers and bin men were found to more than earn their wages.

    Helen Kersley from the NEF said: “We get a huge tax ­contribution from the City but it pales into insignificance next to the damage from the financial crisis in terms of unemployment, bailing out banks and leaving us with a massive public debt.”

    Reply: Barclays did not need a bail out. QE is a way of keeping interest rates very low so that the state can spend more whilst paying less for its borrowing. I agree that the bail outs were a a disgrace – a a needless expense. They should have followed the policy they say would follow in future if a b ig banks get into difficulties.

    • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
      Posted December 20, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      Mr Redwood,

      Thank you for your reply.

      Barclays received a subsidy of £10.1 billion.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/8748225/UK-banks-handed-46bn-taxpayer-subsidy.html

      “The NEF calculates that Lloyds Banking Group, which is 41pc owned by the state, receives the largest subsidy of £14.8bn. That is more than Royal Bank of Scotland, which is the beneficiary of £13.2bn of support, despite being 83pc owned by the taxpayer.

      Barclays is the next largest recipient with a £10.1bn subsidy, while HSBC is said to receive £6.56bn, according to the NEF. Nationwide is said to receive support worth £1.13bn.

      The figures mark the first attempt to quantify the value to individual lenders of the taxpayers’ implicit support of the British banking system.

      The methodology used by the NEF is based on work done by Andy Haldane, executive director for financial stability at the Bank of England.

      Mr Haldane calculated that last year the total value of the taxpayer subsidy to the banking system was about £100bn, looking at the difference between banks’ borrowing costs based on their standalone “financial strength rating” and their “senior unsecured rating”, which takes into account government support.”

  50. Bazman
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Many of the contributors say that benefits should just be stopped. What would all these people then do in the real world. Would they just quietly sit on the street? I think not. Then what? Take their children away? Starve their children?
    These families have multiple problems and to think that they would somehow change just because they had less money is just a reflection of the small minded middle classes. What planet are you people on? Some people say they should become self employed. They are. As drug dealers.

    • A. Headhunter
      Posted December 20, 2011 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      They get free birth control so why do they have children that they obviously cannot afford?

      • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
        Posted December 20, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps we need to study the origins of Child Benefits:

        “Child Benefit history has its origins in post-war Britain when the coalition government tried to ease burden on families suffering amid housing shortages and food rationing.Known as the Family Allowance, the 5 shillings a week payment was given to parents only for their second and subsequent children, thus helping shore up the depleted population by encouraging more births.It continued through the post-war boom but was restructured when the economy turned down again, being reinvented as Child Benefit in the second half of the 1970s. The new payments were tax free and first-time mothers also became eligible.The recession of the early 1990s brought further changes, with the intoduction of a higher rate for the first child, while the other rates were frozen. ”

        Is it moral to encourage a higher birthrate even though the World Population has increased by one billion people in just twelve years ?

        I guess in well educated countries – such as the UK; people tend to have children because they want them and think about whether they can afford them later. Do teenage mothers see getting pregnant as a way of leapfrogging the Council House queue?

        Should we not cut Child benefits altogether and free ourselves of state reliance. If local Police forces are struggling for cash why encourage Moral Hazzard amongst teenage girls who see pregancy as a way of getting a place of their own. They are probably spurred on by their Parent’s boasts of how much Housing Benefit they have taken out of the public purse – despite being in undeclared employment and owning and running two vehicles.

        And at the top of this pyramid of welfare fraud stands proudly the Bank CEOs – drunk on obscene bonuses paid for through taxing people who actually work for a living. Trickle dow economics or trickle down Fraud? The Bankers who have the audacity to claim success at raising their profitability and contribution to the Treasury while hiding the fact that tax payer subsidies are where their real source of profit comes from.

        HMV is (in financial trouble-ed) so I was surprised that there has been no determined assault on the media by Politicians (such as Boris Johnson) to explain how we must bailout HMV (a private profit making company). HMV may go under or it may fight back with an adapted business model – RBS and Northern Rocks business model hasn’t changed – carry on as before and if it goes pair shaped – dump on the tax payer – all profit and no risk.

      • Bazman
        Posted December 20, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

        A symptom of poverty is large children in any society. Are you fifteen years old or just stupid?

  51. Monty
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Bazman, you have to take their babies away. For the sake of the babies. So we should do it, and we should start now. Otherwise we are just nurturing the next cohort of disruptive truants, problem families, and prison fodder.
    When the bath tub is overflowing all over the floor, the first thing to do is turn the tap off. Then, and only then, can you start mopping up the mess you’ve already got.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 20, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      If you ever find yourself in these circumstances you will still have this same view?

  52. A. Headhunter
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 2:34 am | Permalink
  53. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Welfare is a lot cheaper when it is voluntary, not compulsorary. But it is a brave politician who says so – anybody remember Barry goldwater?

  54. Robert K
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    If you invest heavily in an activity it will thrive, more or less. We have invested heavily in welfare, so therefore it is thriving; it will continue to thrive so long as it is sponsored by the state

  55. Posted December 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    In some cases it is not at all the fault of the problem families but of “social workers”actively looking for, or creating, problems to give them an excuse for employment. Anybody reading any of Christopher Booker’s outstanding articles on how the “caring professions” grab children on any excuse or none, taking them from loving parents to put them into hellish “care” homes. With lawyers, in one case, getting £1 million while the parents are denied legal aid. This tracket alone gets the “caring professions” £3.5 billion. I do not know whether the net effect on children would be better if 100% of it wasn’t spent but am certain it would be if 90% wasn’t.

  56. Bazman
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    The crux of the problem in many cases is how a single mother could support her children. Childcare is so expensive that having a job for a woman is in many cases just not realistic even for many families with two parents. If you have two children then often the mothers job pays for the childcare. If you said that people should only have children if they can afford them their would be in this country at least hardly any children and even if the parents could afford childcare many would say that it is wrong for both parents to work to pay for it.
    In many cases the poor have children as they do not have anything else in their lives such a careerer and lets face it what is better a child or a job? A child is the right answer for the individual and the state.
    John writes about the hardcore troublemakers a point lost on most of the contributors. What to do? The answer is obvious. They need helping and like a dog that cannot be put in the room because of eating the furniture, the ones who will not change to have their children removed and evicted from their homes. Prison is inevitable and another story. The process following definite and clear steps within given time frames. If you have twenty convictions for drink driving what should happen to you to stop your drink driving as clearly the law is not working? This is where the law fails in many cases. Less regulation of pubs and alcohol? Repeal of drink drive laws as unnecessary red tape and infringement of the right to drive drunk? It would not surprise me that many believed this.
    How do many of you hold down your jobs and have cushy lives when you have such a small grip on the realities of life? Oh! I remember! You live in favourable circumstances often of not your own making, but of your own upbringing. The ones who would squeal like stuck pigs should anything happen to this life beyond your control.

  57. Monty
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Bazman, enough of the hackneyed old excuses. We’ve heard them all before. It is also dishonest when you bear in mind that young unemployed women with no rights to state benefits, suddenly become elligible for the whole shebang as soon as they have a baby. Those babies are little more than meal tickets. Their prospects are, if anything, even worse than their mothers. They have a much higher than normal risk of neglect, violent abuse, sexual abuse, desertion, malnutrition, poor education outcomes, poor attendance, unemployment, and a criminal record. And it could all have been radically improved had we only had the moral gumption to remove that child as soon as it was born, to be brought up by people with a track record of decent standards, reliability, and stability.
    Once these women learn that the magic key to the money box is no longer available, and the baby can not be exploited, the number of single mother births will plummet. And a massive chunk of the social welfare burden will gradually melt away. But more importantly, we will reduce the number of infants who are born to nothing but suffering.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 22, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      Children forcibly removed from their mothers?
      Zen Fascists will control you 100% natural. You will jog for the master race and always wear a happy face. Close your eyes, cant happen here. Big brother on white horse is near. Mellow out or you will pay.
      Apart from that in the main most young woman of the type you characterise are very careful about contraception in the main my experience in the field tells me and determined not to be ‘victims’. This will of course not apply to nice young Gels will it? In essence a crock.

  58. Monty
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    Don’t be so hysterical, you are going berserk. Rather like the synchronised spontaneous grieving competition in Pyongyang.

    Babies are not property, they aren’t hostages, and they aren’t commodities. And you and I, through the mechanism of the law, have a duty to ensure their welfare is put first. The relevant question, is this one: What sustenance and support can she provide for her baby. Can she earn an income, provide a home, security, the good offices of grandparents? No, she can provide nothing and nobody. She is planning on making us pay for all that, that’s what the baby is there for. We can’t keep that child alive without paying her the ransom. The animal shelter would turn her down if she tried to adopt a hamster, yet she’s walking out of the maternity unit with a helpless vulnerable human being whose life she is about to wreck. And you want that to continue? Yes, actually you do.

    There are pimps with higher moral standards than that.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      How do you plan to enforce this fantasy of removing a child from it’s benign mother be looked after by the state, which will still have to pay someone to look after the child. Would you have to apply for a licence to give birth? Would the child be told the mother did not have enough money to support you? etc etc. A moral swamp beyond the thinking of most people other than simpletons, but lets humour you, as if one person has the same thought, so do many others.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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