Posts Tagged 'New Labour'

Danny Dorling on Rev Paul Nicolson, the housing crisis and hope for the future

Following our successful event on The Future of Social Justice held in association with the Bristol Festival of Ideas at University of Bristol on Monday, here is the full speech from Danny Dorling, one of the speakers.

Looking at the impact of changing housing policy over the years, and recent months, Danny points the way towards creating a fairer future and good quality housing for all.

Danny Dorling

Danny Dorling

“Margaret Thatcher’s government sowed the seeds of today’s housing crisis when it abandoned rent regulation in the private sector.

Those seeds were watered by the administrations of John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg who failed to realise the extent of the growing disaster that they were all nurturing. The results are the bitter harvest that it falls on Theresa May’s government to reap: rising homelessness, fear, destitution and dismay. The housing crisis will not end until homes are again seen as places to grow people, not profit. [1]


“The housing crisis will not end until homes are again seen as places to grow people, not profit.”

Continue reading ‘Danny Dorling on Rev Paul Nicolson, the housing crisis and hope for the future’

A revolution in family policy: Where we should go from here


A brilliant analysis of family policies under New Labour and of how they could and should be developed.Professor Alan Deacon, University of Leeds

Family policy in the UK requires a radical rethink – that is the contention of a new publication by Clem Henricson A revolution in family policy, publishing next week.

This retrospective and prospective analysis considers in detail the major shift in the role of the state viz a viz personal relationships in the 21st century, with its aspirations to reduce child poverty, increase social mobility and deliver social cohesion. The aspirations for family policy initiated by New Labour were enormous addressing the whole social fabric, and they have not been wholly dropped, being carried on in diluted form by the Coalition. This critique not only assesses the philosophy, dynamic and social attitudes behind these significant trends in public policy, but also the degree to which New Labour’s intentions were met or were indeed realisable. It looks at the successes, of which there were many, and the failures and drawing on these establishes a new family policy paradigm.

Criticisms have frequently been leveled that New Labour’s aspirations were not achieved. Child poverty targets and a major shift in social mobility proved elusive. Shortfalls there certainly were, but much of this commonly received analysis has been blinkered by a two fold process; a simplistic focus on the missing of self imposed government targets, coupled with an habituation of the progressive agenda; society took the goods for granted and continued to ask for more.

Less prominence has been given to the charge that the aspirations were simply too extravagant; that it was unrealistic to expect to change a highly unequal society, which the UK is, through supporting personal relationships. There has also been little discussion of the possibility that the aims were too high in respect of changing personal relationships and behaviours. Was there in effect at the core of the New Labour narrative too high an expectation of human malleability?

In the face of this wider critique, what should the next phase in progressive thinking on the role of the state in personal relationships be? How can public policy manage human relations in a way that is sufficiently aspirational to be of moment, while also being realistic and determined by achievable outcomes?

The argument put forward in this book is for a family policy with its own raison d’etre, free of other government agendas for social betterment and the like. A premium is set on the need to manage the multiple core tensions in families of affection, empathy and supportiveness on the one hand and aggression, deception and self interest on the other. A set of coherent support and control polices for family relations are developed which endorse this awareness and embrace a fundamental shift in perspective for future progressive governments.

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A revolution in family policy is available to buy with 20% discount here.

The rise and fall of social work?

During the late 1960s and into the 1970s social work was the rising star of the of the human service delivery professions. This was an optimistic era when the state, through the government of the day, was seen as being able to ensure the basic needs of all its citizens – health, education, social security, housing and so on – were met. Social workers were part of this welfarist project with any social problems remaining being ‘solved’ or ameliorated by them. Working with individuals, families, groups and communities, and ensuring that the work of various agencies met their client’s needs, they were seen as the key players. These were certainly heady days for social work by today’s standards but, sadly, it was not to last.

Margaret Thatcher’s general election success in 1979 saw the end of the social democratic consensus of the post war years which had entailed the acceptance of the welfare state and the role of government in economic planning and regulation. Monetarism, the forerunner of today’s neo-liberalism was to be the replacement, a return to the free market ideology that had been discarded since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The sea change in the ideological climate occurred because during the 1970s neither the Conservative or Labour governments seemed able to solve the economic problems facing Britain. And as far is social work was concerned, it has since been under attack from both politicians and the media often following child abuse tragedies. One has only to recall Maria Colwell in the 1970s through to Victoria Climbie and Baby Peter of the 2000s.

Although many public service professionals have been assailed over recent decades, social work has surely become the most denigrated. The New Right of the 1970s and 1980s were never happy with a profession which was essentially on the side of the poor and disadvantaged, one which focused on social justice and social change. In any case they saw professions, or aspiring ones like social work, as self-serving groupings which were obstacles to privatisation and marketisation. This necessitated social work, as well as public expenditure, being controlled by the introduction of private sector management systems. Initially, this related to care management being introduced with work with older adults in the 1990s and, under New Labour especially, it spread to other client/user areas notably children and families.

New Labour turned out to be the heirs of the neo-liberal consensus with its belief in free markets (unless it came to bailing out the banks and the capitalist system as a whole) and light touch regulation (unless it came to social work). As Bill Jordan has pointed out, social work fared worse under New Labour than it did under the Conservatives. No longer a political party aimed at social change on more just and equal lines, New Labour did not see social work as a critical ally aimed at achieving precisely this.

Instead, various inspection and regulation regimes were introduced to keep social work in check, as well as continuing with strategies aimed at ‘empowering’ managers to set and control the work that social workers do and how. This has been carried out by introducing various bureaucratic, and increasingly electronic, performance indicator hurdles. In so doing, the needs of such as children and families, and in turn social work, are subordinated to the needs of managers and their organisations. Social work often becomes merely a matter of filling in forms/computer exemplars as quickly as possible so as to meet targets; it amounts to people-processing often regardless of the outcome. Rationing increasingly scarce resources is the overriding goal. Consequently, organisations like local authority adult and children’s services, have adapted to meet their imposed targets rather than the real needs of the adults and children and families they are supposed to be serving. One has only to recall the glowing Ofsted report that the London Borough of Haringey received prior to the Baby Peter tragedy. The inspection was no doubt concerned with the quantitative aspects – how many forms were filled and in what time scale – rather than the qualitative aspects of services for children and families.

Despite a general election in May 2010 leading to the ousting of New Labour, the foregoing developments surely look set to continue. Notwithstanding warm words about a social work college increasing the status of social work, and the need to reduce bureaucracy for practitioners, the situation is unlikely to change under a right-wing Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government aimed at ‘getting more for less’ and a ‘big society’. Such a society expects individuals, families and communities to rely on themselves as the state cuts public expenditure and withdraws.

Overall, when looking at social work’s development over the last 150 years one can pinpoint the present neo-liberal consensus as being at the root of the profession’s current crisis. Over the last 30 years the introduction of a private sector business ethos has resulted in deprofessionalisation or, put differently, the deformation of a profession. Put simply, currently being ‘professional’ simply amounts to meeting someone else’s (i.e. managers’) targets.

The current domination of managerialism means a progressive, critical practice based on social justice and social change is increasingly difficult, but nevertheless the limited opportunities remaining need be taken up. Although group and community orientated strategies are often no longer in social worker’s toolbox, in Professor Vicky White’s words ‘quiet challenges’ remain possible. This helps ensure that the limited discretion that does remain, in face to face encounters with children and families for example, is used empoweringly rather than as simply means of control. If this is not done the road is left clear for those wanting to preserve the status quo rather than make the world a better place.

Dr Steve Rogowski, author of Social Work: the rise and fall of a profession?

Choice moves up the public agenda

It’s encouraging to see that ideas around choice are creeping up the public agenda. Renata Salecl’s new book Choice in Profile’s big ideas series focuses on the tendency of increasing choice to create anxieties & so contribute to the air of anxiety that pervades modern (or is it post modern?) culture. This is not a view I would dissent from, though I would want to sugest that reactions to increased choice vary markedly between individuals, & probably over time for the same individual.
Meantime the introduction of more choice in public services, as against an emphasis on provision, seems to be emerging as one of the few issues separating the Milliband brothers in their pursuit of the Labour party leadership, with David, the true heir to Blair, being in favour of more choice as progressive & a worthwhile reform.
Michael Clarke, author of Challenging choices

Policy & Politics: Why do windows of opportunity close?

Quite apart from its practical importance, policy is an endlessly fascinating subject of study. A core theme in the analysis of policy is stability and change. Why do we witness extended periods of stability followed by episodes of change or periods of rapid change? In his 1984 book Agendas, alternatives and public policies, John Kingdon proposed a model based upon multiple streams. The alignment of the problem, policy and politics streams opens a window of opportunity for change. This model has been widely applied, including recently to US health care reform by Kingdon himself in the 2010 revised edition of his book (Kingdon, J.W. (2010) Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies (Updated Edition, with an Epilogue on Health Care), Longman).

An illuminating application of the model is offered by Annesley, Gains and Rummery in their recent paper analysing New Labour’s legacy on engendering politics and policy. The election of New Labour in 1997 appeared to open a window of opportunity for significant progress in the engendering of both politics and policy – and the authors are careful to maintain the distinction between the two. For reasons of both electoral calculation and values the New Labour government recognised gender as a significant policy issue. Annesley et al argue that New Labour’s attempts to engender politics could claim significant success. However, they examine two specific policy areas – change to leave for new parents and action to close the gender pay gap – and argue that the achievements in engendering policy were considerably more limited. They identify three broad reasons why policy change was modest, particularly in relation to the gender pay gap. All three speak to issues of great interest in the contemporary analysis of policy more generally. The first reason is the way the policy problem was framed: the focus was narrowed to the issue of women’s labour market participation and poverty, rather than the broader gender division of paid and unpaid labour. The second reason was the extent and speed with which the institutions of governance adapted to a new agenda. Effectively they couldn’t keep up. The third reason is the extent to which it is possible to pursue policies that run against the presumptions of broader (neo)liberal and pro-business economic policy. And the move to recession in 2008 dissipated what limited momentum there was behind the push to level upward on pay or introduce more flexible maternity and paternity leave: economic imperatives – and reducing the burden on business – take precedence.

The concept of the window of opportunity has given good service in the analysis of policy change. This case study of New Labour’s attempts to engender politics and policy provides a valuable additional dimension to our understanding of precisely how propitious the circumstances need to be before significant change can occur.

Annesley, C., Gains, F. and Rummery, K. (2010) Engendering politics and policy: the legacy of New Labour, Policy & Politics, vol 38, no 3, 389-406.

Alex Marsh, Management Board, Policy & Politics

Evaluating New Labour’s legacy

Were you still up for………er……. Lembit Opik? No ‘Portillo moment’: Jacqui Smith and Charles Clarke were about the best that the night could deliver. No ‘Edgbaston’ like 1997 (Labour landslide) and no ‘Basildon’ like 1992 (Conservatives hanging on). [Blair’s legacy is that we all write sentences without verbs!]. So New Labour ends not with a bang but with a whimper, and even that was drawn out for days as we followed the courting rituals of the parties. It is a sobering thought to have your books consigned to ‘history’. New Labour, new welfare state? (1999) explored the ‘third way’ in social policy. Evaluating New Labour’s welfare reforms (2002) examined delivery and achievements against aims and objectives. Modernising the welfare state (2008) examined Blair’s legacy in social policy. Since then, Brown has ‘saved the world’. Some things did get better, but at a cost. ‘Prudence’ and ‘New Labour’ will be wise spenders, not big spenders’ seems like a distant memory. Who would have thought that New Labour would end up redistributing towards merchant bankers (Cockney rhyming slang optional)?

Farewell, then, to New Labour. It may well be that 2010 was an Election better not to win. You can read about Conservative/Liberal Democrat policy in Hugh Bochel’s 2011 book The Conservative party and social policy, and perhaps someone, somewhere is already planning a book about ‘Team Miliband’ (hedging my bets), although ‘The Social Policy of Balls’ has the hint of a bestseller. In an uncertain future for social policy, you can be sure only of one thing: you can read all about it with ‘Policy Press’.

Martin Powell, author of Modernising the welfare state, Evaluating New Labour’s welfare reforms and New Labour, new welfare state?

Are the first cuts the deepest?

What has happened as far as the tally of injustice goes since the election results came out? For a start the election made one of the graphs in Injustice: Why social inequality persists look slightly out of date. As predicted the Conservative segregation index rose even higher than before. If you have a copy of the book turn to page 175 and put an extra dot in the margin, where 2010 would be, at a height of 16.4%. What happened was that on May 6th 2010 the greatest swings towards the Conservatives occurred in the seats where they were most popular to begin with. This is a symptom of a still dividing country, but it is also a quite inefficient way to increase your support. Thus the Tories did not manage to secure an overall majority. They increased their vote most in the seats they already held. In some of the poorer parts of Britain, and especially in Scotland, the votes for Labour actually increased. The Liberals were squeezed out and lost seats in the middle of this polarisation. They ended up sharing power as no one could rule without them.

Today we saw the beginnings of what this increased political polarisation means, the very first cuts were announced. Among them George Osborne declared the demise ever slowly slightly redistributive Child Trust Fund, cutting payments of £320 million in 2010 and £520 million a year from 2011-2012. In the fund’s place he announced new funding of an almost charitable nature: An extra £20 million each year from 2011 being spent on addition respite care, 8000 one week long breaks for severely disabled children.

What you should expect is much more of this. Cutting something which is actually redistributive and replacing it with something that costs only a tenth as much and is useful but tokenistic – aimed at the most ‘deserving’ of cases. Thus some 4000 council houses will be built; a paltry number, but just enough to salve a few consciences. It would be very better to reduce the wealth of the richest so many gave up their spare homes which others could then use. Similarly, there would have been no need for a Child Trust Fund in the first place had income differential not widened under New Labour.

Other cost cutting is also indicative of what kind of the world the Conservative-Liberal coalition would like to see emerge. David Laws, the Liberal Chief Secretary to the treasury, suggested that the £45 million annual first class travel by public servants should be curtailed. This is good, but far better not to be running train carriages designed for different social classes into the twenty-first century in the first place. It is far simpler just to begin to abandon first class tickets for anyone, and the kind of thing a country that has just become a great deal poorer might have to begin to think of doing (to use track space more efficiently). Would David Cameron’s dream of a big society still have first and second class travel, with just public sector workers, students, families and lower private sector management and anyone else not quite like him in ‘economy’? I worry that is their dream. Too many still want a more unequal world.

Daniel Dorling, author of Injustice: Why social inequality persists

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