In my speech yesterday I praised the Family Intervention Project introduced by the Labour Government and in fact piloted in Bristol. I’ve just been sent a press release from the City Council about their response to the riots, in which Cabinet Member for Targeted Improvements (!) Gary Hopkins also praises the scheme:
Cllr Hopkins added: “We have already used the powers of eviction in the highly effective ground-breaking Family Intervention Project which has been a significant factor in the rapid decline of crime in Bristol. We will be examining all cases here to see if these powers are appropriate to use again.”
A couple of points spring to mind… This Government has scrapped ringfenced funding for early intervention and bundled around 22 different funds into one overall fund, slashing the overall amount of funding while it does it. (Easier to hide cuts if things are repackaged and represented, but this is definitely a cut). Their line now is that Sure Start hasn’t been cut – the local council can choose to fund it to the same level as before, from this bigger pot – bigger, yes, because it’s 22 funds rolled into one, but significantly smaller if you look at what the individual 22 funds amounted to… Same applies to the Family Intervention Project. So is Cllr Hopkins pledging to continue funding FIP to the same level as before, and if so, what other spending will be cut? Sure Start? The drive to reduce teenage pregnancy? Mental health support for young people?
Secondly, almost every week at my surgery now I am visited by constituents whose lives are plagued by anti-social behaviour from their neighbours. Quite often it turns out that these new neighbours have been evicted from other homes because of their behaviour. If they have children, there’s a duty to rehouse them, which might not fall under the remit of the housing department, but will be picked up by social services. So whilst I see entirely the case for saying that people who behave in an anti-social manner and make life a misery for their neighbours should be evicted – why should they get preference for social housing when there are plenty of ‘decent’ people on the housing list – it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense if the end result is simply exporting the problem to another street, another estate. It’s a particular problem when such families are moved into areas populated by older, more settled tenants and residents. They can very quickly change the entire character of the neighbourhood. But what’s the solution? Throw them out of the streets altogether? Take the kids into care? Make them live in ghettos under flyovers as I think Frank Field once suggested?
This of course is topical because councils are already serving eviction notices on parents whose kids have been involved in rioting. What about the other kids in the family? And isn’t it just a gimmick if the families end up on the emergency housing list and end up being given somewhere else to live?