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?

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  • Anna  On August 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Isn’t it technically collective punishment to evict a family because one member, child or not, has been rioting or looting?

  • Richard  On August 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    The whole thing is very short-sighted and the whole thing will end up costing a lot of money which could be better spent on saving police jobs.

  • Quietzaple  On August 12, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    In the ’90s when Tory Home Secretary Howard prattled (almost) that he could hang bands of gold from branches of trees bordering the Queen’s highway I lived in det res with stabling adjacent to a terrace or twenty or so dwellings.

    Ours wasn’t grand: theirs looked tiny but weren’t.

    It later transpired that about half the families in the terraces had been evicted elsewhere because of anti social behaviour however categorised.

    Never had such a miserable time in our lives and lost two thirds of the purchase price of the house.

    • Quietzaple  On August 13, 2011 at 5:30 am

      To elucidate my family of 5 was subjected severally and more than once in each instance to assault, burglary, kidnap, theft. They only stole our kitten on Christmas Eve once though.

      Not at all a joke, no gangs, all White, deprived working class community.

      The police asked to use our house for a view of kids dismantling stolen cars in the lane at the back of our house: no prosecution: “We’ve lost it” the CID guy said. It didn’t happen again so presumably he had a word with them or the Godfathers in their communities.

      We were really pleased when the guy up the road who burgled us twice in a fortnight went to jail: he used to say: “I’m a thief, I’m not evil.” communities need breaks from such people.

      I delivered envelopes for Christan Aid as organised by the local C of E. Kids went round and collected them the next two days. The organiser who was “local” said we’d best not report this to the police.

      I believe there was a remnant of a tribe in East Africa – my sociology is so long ago! – surviving into the 1960s whose norms included lying and thievery: they were dying out.

  • thebristolblogger  On August 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Is the new BCC press release viewable anywhere?

    So far the only one I’ve seen is the really gormless one blaming every riot that’s ever happened in Bristol on “opportunist anarchists”.

    • kerrymccarthy  On August 12, 2011 at 7:38 pm

      Here you go…

      Please find the latest release from Bristol City Council, Thursday 11 August 2011

      The Safer Bristol partners have worked closely this week to tackle the recent street disorder.

      Gary Hopkins, Cabinet Member for Targeted Improvements for Bristol City Council said: “While we must always remain vigilant we’ve seen many comments on how well the agencies have worked together in Bristol to tackle recent unrest. The Safer Bristol Partnership has a history of highly effective co-operation between the agencies involved in tackling crime.

      “This week the close working between police, fire brigade and the council has meant that we’ve been able to clamp down on this disorder to prevent it getting out of control. The vast majority of Bristolians want us to deal with it in this way, to prevent this copy-cat criminality.

      “The police have protected the fire service officers while they make buildings safe, while street cleaning and traffic management staff have backed police efforts to keep areas safe by rapidly clearing waste and potential hazards.”

      The exchange of CCTV footage has also been hugely beneficial.

      Detective Chief Inspector Will White said: “We have direct access to the highly efficient CCTV system run by the Council. We have downloaded hours of footage and police officers have been carefully scrutinising the images to help us identify and track down the criminals involved. This footage has played a vital part in the arrests we have made so far and will continue to be a crucial factor as we track down more offenders.”

      The partnership is looking at other ways to support each other’s work of tackling these criminals.

      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.

      “I’d like to thank the police, the fire service, council staff, partners for all their hard work, and the people of Bristol who kept off the streets to allow the police to get on with their work.”

      The updated Safer Bristol Partnership Plan 2010-2013 is available on:www.saferbristol.org.uk.

  • Quietzaple  On August 12, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Tis amusing that the “Libertarians” who didn’t even want CCTV in public carparks have become rather silent.

    I wonder if the multi racial miscreants who now face extremely swift justice in some cases will find these “libertarians” in support if there are miscarriages of justice?

    I’m not expert but wonder if any retained DNA records will also be helpful?

    • kerrymccarthy  On August 12, 2011 at 11:20 pm

      Yes, Clegg’s air of studied disinterest when Cameron was praising CCTV in the Chamber yesterday was rather amusing…

  • True_Belle  On August 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Councils do evict problem families- to areas that have had no previous trouble, thus upsetting fresh whole new communities.

    Being a nomadic misfit family does no one any good whatsoever, and it just proves that society has failed in confronting those very difficult child rearing years!

    Here is a link to a very heartwarming story. I do hope this young man fulfills his dream.


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