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Thursday, December 15, 2011 

Show us the money.

As readers of this blog (now down to 3 people, 2 dogs and 1 gerbil) will know, it takes a lot to flabbergast me. The News of the World hacking the phone of a murdered schoolgirl and then when one detail turns out to possibly be wrong attacking those who exposed the cover-up doesn't surprise me in the least. The incredible cynicism of the Liberal Democrats over Europe, with Nick Clegg first welcoming last Friday's veto and then once he realised what had happened having to play up his actual opposition is to be expected when power over principle trumps everything else. Even the bi-monthly media attacks on Ed Miliband, despite his flaying of David Cameron in the Commons on Monday, just wash over me.

David Cameron's speech today on troubled families though is truly staggering in the amount of chutzpah it must have taken to deliver with a straight face. Strip it of the spinning in the press and all the verbiage in the speech which just repeats so much of what we've heard before, and all it amounts to is an expansion of Labour's family intervention projects scheme, except with one hugely important difference: despite the headlines about the £440m being provided, it's now become apparent that until councils have produced evidence that the schemes they've set up with their own funds are working, they won't be receiving a penny. There is then no new money being put into the scheme at all.

This is due to how councils can't raise any additional funds to pay for the £600m they're being asked to put in, as the Treasury expects council tax to be frozen again next year. Without making cuts elsewhere to fund this new demand from Whitehall, it's difficult to see where the cash is going to come from, as Labour have pointed out. Indeed, some of the family intervention projects which were already up and running have been closed down due to the cuts.

Dip further into Cameron's speech and it's obvious who he expects to pick up the slack: the voluntary and private sector. He almost inevitably name-checks Emma Harrison, the boss of A4E, whom he tasked to put "rocket-boosters" under this very scheme. A4E's effectiveness at placing people in jobs has already been called into question, with the National Audit Office criticising the way they missed targets set for them under the Pathways to Work scheme. Cameron's proposal then appears to be for councils to task charities and businesses to provide the resources, who will pay them by results, with the councils then being reimbursed by the government in turn. To say this hardly inspires confidence would be putting it very mildly.

The dishonesty even extends to not admitting the family intervention projects were the invention of Labour, and expanded widely under Gordon Brown. They did "try to make a difference" he says, but troubled families were "swamped with bureaucracy, smothered in welfare". Cameron's solution it seems is to do down everyone and then not provide the funding the spin promised: social workers approach families in much the same way as the key workers under FIPs do yet receive little to no credit.

From the very opening sentence Cameron seems to be asking for it, saying that we need a social recovery as well as an economic one. Is it too much to suggest that an economic one will help enormously on its own with the former? Just before he concludes, he comes out with these lines:

I know these are difficult challenges for any government.

They won’t be fixed just by a bit more money or a new scheme…

…or – dare I say it – another Prime Ministerial speech.

This immense task will take new ways of thinking, committed local action, flexibility and perseverance.


Quite right. They also won't be fixed when there is in fact no new money being provided, even if the existing scheme works. An even more immense task it seems is a prime ministerial speech which doesn't set out to mislead the public.

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And how many paper pushers would it take to run the system as you say it appears to be setup-

"Cameron's proposal then appears to be for councils to task charities and businesses to provide the resources, who will pay them by results, with the councils then being reimbursed by the government in turn. To say this hardly inspires confidence would be putting it very mildly."

That sounds like a recipe for runaway bureacracy and overspending. So much for efficiency...

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