Totally made-up cohort of families to be punished for being poor, in new government clamp down on sane social policy.
So Britain’s 120,000 “most troubled families” stand to have any benefits they receive provided in the form of a smartcard rather than in cash, which they will only be able to use at a few approved stores, and which won’t allow for purchases of alcohol and tobacco.
Let’s leave aside the stigmatising effects and consequences, obvious and well researched though they are.
Let’s leave aside the “thin end of the wedge” implications of such a change in the law.
Let’s just focus on the fact that this 120,000 cohort of “most troubled families” doesn’t actually exist:
[T]he figure of 120,000 families derives from an analysis of 2004 survey data. This estimated that about two per cent of the families in the survey had five or more of seven characteristics:
- No parent in the family is in work;
- Family lives in overcrowded housing;
- No parent has any qualifications;
- Mother has mental health problems;
- At least one parent has a long-standing limiting illness, disability or infirmity;
- Family has low income (below 60 per cent of median income);
- Family cannot afford a number of food and clothing items.
We cannot even be sure that there are 120,000 families with these difficulties. Since it is a sample survey, the actual figures may be substantially lower or higher, possible as high as 300,000. But the main point is that the characteristics of these families are radically different from those targeted by the Troubled Families programme. These are households experiencing multiple deprivation, with no evidence that they are involved in crime or anti-social behaviour. There is no evidence that there are 120,000 families of the kind the government is targeting.
That is, it’s quite possible that the government will soon remove a basic right from families – to buy what they want where they want – because they are poor and/or ill.
Words fail etc. etc.