While everyone deplores the brutal death of Baby P, there is an unavoidable question lying behind the horrible circumstances of his short life. How have we ended up with a welfare system that is intended to help poor and dysfunctional families but in doing so helps create more of the problems it was set up to solve? And what can we do to solve this paradox?The light dawns at last…
This refusal to think about the interaction between good intentions and perverse consequences has long been a blindness of the left. It is beginning to change, notably with James Purnell's willingness to challenge lifetime dependency in the welfare-to-work reforms at the Department for Work and Pensions. But he is seen by some in the Labour government as dangerously radical in approach. Here the government is lagging behind the public who, in the face of recession, are likely to be asking tough questions about who exactly benefits from the welfare state, what the results of its spending are, and on what basis its resources are allocated.In other words: ‘Oh-oh! We’re losing the battle of ideas! The peasants are starting to revolt…’
She gives a good example of the kind of welfare state ‘client’ that ought to be easily recognisable to most people (and is immediately jumped on for ‘producing an anecdote!’ by the same people who are happy to do that when it suits them, naturally…):
For more than 20 years Cheryl and her family have lived at other people's expense. Yet it hasn't been a good life. The house is full of stuff - flatscreen TVs, PlayStations, iPods - but its inhabitants are depressed. The children are sullen or aggressive and lack hope, and the two out of school are apparently unemployable. Nothing has flourished as a result of this unconditional public expenditure: not Cheryl, not society, and certainly not her damaged kids.Sounds a lot like the kind of houses ’Nightjack’ and ’Inspector Gadget’ have been writing about for yonks, doesn’t it…?
Though I have to take issue with her conclusion here:
No one who was designing a public safety net would look at outcomes like these and want to reproduce them….. Those brought up in cultures of dependence often lack the confidence, resilience or education to be attractive to employers.Jenni, sweetie – for the Left, that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. A vast, growing herd of dependant sheep, willing to vote themselves for largesse from the public purse – I think you have a very rosy view of our venal political class if you think they haven’t factored this in as a benefit. To them.
But before you think everything in the garden is now rosy, remember, this is still ‘The Guardian’, and her suggestions are – yup, you guessed it – ‘more money, more State intervention’:
But if benefits have been no panacea for the poor, work alone is no magic solution. Breaking patterns of disadvantage won't end just by getting insecure adults into largely low-paid jobs. These adults may need support for years. The DWP can't do it alone.Sorry, Lefties – you broke it, you bought it! If more money is needed, then don’t turn to the taxpayer for it!
Let’s have a bonfire of the type of useless ‘jobs’ seen in the pages of the ‘Guardian’ and the ‘Independent’ – no more diversity outreach co-ordinators, or Green Initiative management directors. From now on, we can’t afford the fat in the budget to support them and their huge pensions. Those currently employed as such can be retrained as underclass workshop overseers.
Like that idea, Jenni? Not much, I bet…
If a culture is to change, we will need, as politicians like Iain Duncan Smith and Graham Allen have argued, expensive investment in all ages from nought to 18. It has to start with focused help with parenting and continue with genuinely good childcare, flexible jobs and a more responsive, emotionally intelligent education system. That wouldn't be simple or cheap.No, it wouldn’t.
And whatever an ‘emotionally intelligent’ education system actually means, I think we can do without that, as well. At least, until it can fulfil its basic function – that of teaching the little sods to read, write, and add up….