Tuesday, 12 June 2012

What are 'problem families'?

The government has decided to spend £450 million on tackling the problem of what are variously referred to as  the 120,000 "problem" or "troubled" families in the UK who allegedly cost us £9 billion a year.

So who are these problem families?

Well, according to the government a family is a problem family if they meet at least five of the following criteria:

a) no parent in work
b) poor quality housing,
c) no parent with qualifications,
d) mother with mental health problems
e) one parent with longstanding disability/illness
f) family has low income,
g) Family cannot afford some food/clothing items

So, as the Guardian points out:
"In so far as can be gleaned, the 120,000 families whose feral ways Mr Pickles and the prime minister like pointing to were totted up using outdated surveys concerned not with the school skiving, crime and loutishness that dominated yesterday's spin. It seems instead that in and among the indicators used for that figure were disability, long-term illness and poor housing. These data are, in other words, a gauge of who is vulnerable and not who is troubled, still less troublesome."
So these people who Eric Pickles and the press are villifying aren't in fact drunken louts who commit crimes and ruin neighbourhoods, these are people in great difficulty. Of course, people who meet the criteria could also genuinely cause problems but just because you have a disability which prevents you from working, have a low income, don't have enough money to buy new clothes and have a leaking roof, does not mean you deserve to be described as "louts", "irresponsible", "druggies", "scroungers" or "feckless".

And these are the people who will now face a government led witch hunt and inquisition into every aspect of their lives for their "crimes" - with a supporting role plaid by right wing tabloids who will ceaselessly hunt for one extreme example of a problem family and then trumpet that as proof that all the others are vermin. It's sickening.

Oh, and on top of that, it turns out that the figures used to come up with the figure of 120,000 troubled families are eight years old and very, very flaky. In fact, Factcheck says:
In reporting on the supposed 120,000 'problem' families, both the media and Government ministers seem to have fundamentally misunderstood what the number tells us. Rather than this being an identifiable group "in trouble or causing trouble", this figure refers to the number of families identified as having a number of social or economic difficulties or disadvantages.

When it comes to the cost to the taxpayer of providing services to these families, there are also significant questions that need to be answered before we can have confidence in the £9 billion figure. While DCLG have said that analysis done by colleagues in the Department for Education formed the foundations of its estimate, a closer look at the DfE's work shows that it actually concerns only part of this group of families, the minority with 'problem' child behaviour.
And all of the above put together is why I consider the tories to be lower than vermin. It's because time and time again they come up with policies which seem determined to find the most vulnerable people they can and then repeatedly kick them in the gut all the while telling them that it's their own fault and seeking praise in the tabloids for doing it. They're bullies, plain and simple. And not only bullies but also bloody stupid bullies who can't even manage to get their figures right.


  1. What are problem families? Parents that take their 8 year old daughter to a pub and forget her, leaving her there?

  2. It's not a matter of vilification, it is a matter of support for , as you say, vulnerable families - and by using this kind of criteria you don't have to wait til things are dreadful before support is offered. Listening to the BBC you get the opposite view: that it's not fair if 'good' vulnerable families are ignored while 'bad' ones get help. If just all depends on whether you think government intervention in any family is a good or a bad thing. Having worked with Victim Support I personally found people wishing they could get more help not less- and these were just these vulnerable families, not the criminals, although the victims wanted intervention for them too. The thing is that criminals do get 'support' in the end, victims rarely do.
    Eleanor :)

    1. I very much hope that these families do get extra support - but, given that the rhetoric so far has been about making sure they take the blame for their situation, I have my doubts whether that will happen.

  3. Having lived through the last Tory government George, I can tell you that they left in their wake a country which was completely changed from its previous self.

    Of course, I can only speak for Scotland, but I imagine that in many other parts of the union the result was the same.

    They claimed to have sorted out the financial mess that Labour had left, and to a certain extent I imagine that is true. Certainly the UK wasn't going cap in hand to the IMF for bail outs as it had been in the late 70s. But society was broken into pieces.

    There had always been 'class' and 'rich and poor' and 'people knowing their place' and 'respecting their betters', and that was bad, but, at least it was done with a certain humanity (usually). The Tories managed to take all decency out of everything. There had always been greed, but they made it good to be greedy. There had always been spivs but they made it respectable to be a spiv.

    Eric Pickles is a spiv, and despite his aristocratic connections, so is Cameron.

    They are so monumentally incompetent and stupid that they underestimate everyone else's intellectual capacity. They seem to think that because they are dim that we too as so dim as not to be able to see through the invented figures.

    They are bright enough, though, to see the opportunity to introduce their policies, policies that even Thatcher would have baulked at, under the guise of "necessity" given the dire situation (which of course is all Europe's fault).

    But the bankers are still exactly where they were; no one has taken a halfpenny from them, indeed they shored up their salaries just on the off chance that Osborne meant what he said about doing something to them. And MPs and Lords haven't suffered while everyone else has. The royals too have had their rights and privileges enhanced and Charles will be the richest king ever, if he ever makes it to the throne.

    The English Tories (and they are English by and large: Scotland only has one, right on the border, and he's only barely sentient) are one of the reasons that many Scots want independence. So that we, who NEVER vote for people who treat the poor like some sort of sub species, will never have their odious policies, wrapped in falsified figures rammed down our throats ever again.

  4. And all of the above put together is why I consider the tories to be lower than vermin. It's because time and time again they come up with policies which seem determined to find the most vulnerable people they can and then repeatedly kick them in the gut all the while telling them that it's their own fault and seeking praise in the tabloids for doing it. They're bullies, plain and simple. And not only bullies but also bloody stupid bullies who can't even manage to get their figures right.
    Bravo George. Sheer poetry! But what to do about it? I, for one, don't know.

  5. I am vilified, I dont work, I am disabled, I have children. This govt should bloody well GET OFF THEIR ARSES and make the feckless fathers who do not PAY for their children - Bloody well pay or remove their driving licence and their passport and every sodding thing until the do not make kids then dump them!!! So I hear on the news today how this govt will remove my driving licence if I was one who wouldnt allow him acces (tho he would play that I dont even tho he did not ask to see or contact for over 9mths!) Then he turns up on my doorstep and tells me how he misses me, and his being a feckless father is not about ME! He just see's me and seems to ignore the damage he is doing by only focusing on me. I am nothing - What about the children?????. And wonders why our child runs off to play instead of seeing the man who has not bothered (not even a xmas present etc) for almost 10mths.

    Why are the govt allowing feckless men to do hurtful things to their children, but as usual it's all the womans fault.

    I dont like being disabled - It is no fun for me but in all of that I am raising my family, and I am doing a bloody good job! With no help whatsoever from the ex partner.

    But as usual I am in the wrong cos I am disabled, and cannot work due to that. I am evil and a faker - and no matter what my dr or specialists say it doesnt matter - Only ATOS word is the truth? (haha - yeah right)

    If this is the big society then I dunno what a small one would be where everyone hates you just for having a walking stick or wheelchair!

    In fact the only sub-species here - Are the ones who stand on their rich pedestals and deem the poor people scum and worthless! Just cos you were born with that silver spoon doesnt make you more worthwhile than I am! (OK i actually DO feel worthles but that is by the by)

    So - I am scum who is worthlesss a liar and not ill at all apparently (wonder where all these ill symptoms came from then obviously I made them up - Just like all fakers and scroungers do!) I would love to go back to the dream I wanted to do before this illness took my future away. But I cant - I will never be able to - I have a life long deteriorating condition and THERE IS NO CURE!

    And yet - More people sign on and work, but the people wrecking the country are the ones with the lowest fraud rate - Cos we are all liars. Even Karen Sherlock (RIP Karen) I guess she made ist all up too eh Cameron?

    This whole country is so bad lately I feel like I went to bed and woke up in the 1800s

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I'm indebted to Birkdale Focus for the following choice of words:

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