Grim numbers of stabbings have recently dominated the UK news. The popular press are baying for action. Increasingly hostage to the demands of the Daily Mail, the government is taking this to mean any action whatsoever, no matter how pointless or counter-productive.
A couple of days ago, there was a decision to take young people “at risk of being involved in knife crime” (a bit difficult to identify, surely…) to visit stab victims in hospitals. This made some sort of sense. Seeing the consequences of a stabbing might indeed put a few non-psychopathic people off contemplating carrying knives. Although it could possibly be a bit unnerving for victims. However, within a couple of days, this idea has come to be seen as too much of “a soft option” and the government denies it even contemplated it.
Targetting problem families is the new favoured solution. Targetting how?
More than 110,000 “problem families” with disruptive youngsters will be targeted as part of a crackdown on knife crime, Gordon Brown has said.
They will get parenting supervision, with the worst 20,000 families facing eviction if they do not respond. (from the BBC)
Duh? Run that by me again. Where do these numbers come from? Made up on the spot, like 42 days, 300 active terror networks and all the other bullshit numbers?
110,000 problem families
Firstly, what is a “family?” A whole kinship group, the nuclear family, any co-residents in a property? There’s no room for sociological niceties in this policy. However, without even a working definition of what counts as a “family”, the whole approach becomes hot air.
The UK government, under the pressure of the baying press, has been deifying the “family” for a few years, to the point that now well nigh all policies are presented as “family” policies. Which is odd given that a huge minority of people don’t live in “family” groups.
Even the government now seems to acknowledge that there may be sometimes be a dark side to its cosy “family” ideal. We all know there are whole families that any sane person will move to the next county to avoid. But still.
How are these bad “problem families” going to be identified? Are they families in which everyone commits crimes? We have laws that are supposed to bring penalties if you get caught. There is an old-fashioned idea of presumption of innocence surely. Are they “families” overwhelmed by poverty, illness and mental problems? Even the shittiest family grouping is hardly responsible if one of its number goes and stabs someone.
Are they going to be the sort of families who spends their lives under social services supervision, with the kids in and out of care? The forms of intervention don’t seem to be effective yet, do they? Maybe some serious action to help ease the misery of the kids involved might be more effective than heaping even more pressures on them.
The worst 20,000 facing eviction?
- Well, this assumes that ALL problem families live in council accommodation. A bit odd (a) for the party that was once identified with the labour movement; (b) when public housing is becoming almost non-existent and (c) when any successful criminal “families” are more than likely to own their own property.
- It assumes that some scale of “worst” can be applied. Again, this can’t involve actual engagement in crime otherwise the perpetrators should surely just be arrested and charged in the traditional manner. So what will it come down to?
- It puts a bizarre numerical value on the numbers of people judged “worst” and due to be evicted. Will there be targets? Will numbers of problem families be shared out equally between local authorities? In that case, playing football in the street might get you seen as a problem in some Surrey suburbs, whereas you might need to engage in a random arson campaign before you disturb teh neighbours in some Glasgow streets.
- Even imagining for one moment that these twenty thousand “families” are the genuine causes of all crimes, what about the children and adults in these families who are blameless? Are the innocent now to be punished for other people’s criminality?
- Can someone – anyone – please explain to me how making 20,000 families homeless will cut knife crime?
- Is there evidence that homelessness works wonders for child development? Are the homeless uniquely moral?
Hint to Gordon Brown – yet again. (Please start paying attention, Prime Minister…..)
Mad social policies that pretend to be “tough” but – in fact, show an incapacity to use simple logic and usually involve hammering the poor – aren’t going to win you the election. The hangers and floggers Tories in the Daily Mail readership are just not going to vote for you, no matter how much you pander to them. And it makes the rest of us despair.