Think Tanks
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Cameron warned against forgetting his marriage vows

The Government’s record on supporting marriage and the family today (Tuesday May 10) comes under fire from a leading think-tank in a report published to coincide with the first anniversary of the formation of the Coalition.
 

The report from the Centre for Social Justice gives Ministers just 2/10 for their efforts to reverse high and damaging levels of family breakdown.

 

Pre-election promises by David Cameron to reinstate a tax break for marriage have “moved off radar” as a result of the deals done with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, the report says.

 

Although marriage is no magic bullet, the evidence shows that children born outside wedlock are far more likely to grow up in poverty and experience poorer life chances.

“Some of the vital measures committed to by the Conservative Party in opposition appear to have been watered down during Coalition negotiations,” it adds.
 

The report is also critical of the Government’s lack of ambition, saying that like its Labour predecessor much of its work is dominated by efforts to pick up the pieces after relationships have broken down rather than expand services designed to prevent family breakdown. The coalition has committed a paltry £7.5 million to relationship support.
 

The CSJ Coalition Report Card scores the Government on the five key areas identified by the CSJ as the pathways to poverty: family breakdown, economic dependency, serious personal debt, drug and alcohol addiction, and educational failure. Overall Ministers score 29/50 with policy on personal debt reduction another area of weakness.|
 

CSJ executive director Gavin Poole says in the report: “The Government’s first year of action has been mixed. Pioneering progress in pursuing welfare reform and an encouraging new direction for drug and alcohol policy has been undermined by poor implementation of bold education plans, and compromise-driven inaction in tackling our devastating culture of family breakdown.”
 

In its seminal report Breakthrough published in 2007, which was commissioned by David Cameron as Opposition leader and has since shaped much of the Government’s poverty-fighting agenda, the CSJ argued that root causes had to be addressed if “Broken Britain” was to be repaired.
 

Throwing money at social problems was not enough.

 

The CSJ, gives higher marks (8/10) to the Government’s efforts to end welfare dependency.
 

It applauds the plans to incentivise work by introducing universal credit and to involve charities and private firms in retraining the unemployed.
 

But the CSJ is critical of aspects of the Government’s welfare reforms.
  

It warns that the way that plans to cap benefit payments at average annual household income of £26,000 will be implemented will bring hardship to some 50,000 large families. It recommends phasing in the benefit cap, which enjoys public support.

But the big families affected “will have the rug pulled from under them overnight” and face an average projected loss in benefits of £93 a week. For some this will be “damaging” and for others facing an even bigger drop in income, it will be “devastating”.
  

The CSJ also warns of the “unfortunate and unfair” anomaly in delivering the plan to scrap child benefit for couples where one parent earns more than £42,475.
  

The Government gets a respectable mark for its efforts to deal with educational failure, with the CSJ applauding its plans to reduce red tape and bureaucracy in order to equip heads and teachers to improve discipline in their schools.
  

But it is disappointed with the implementation of the Free Schools programme and says that their organisers should be allowed to make a profit.
  

“Free Schools, similar to the Pioneer Schools model we have championed, offer hope to those children trapped in failing schools. That said, we have serious concerns about the stalling and implementation of this policy.
 

“Free Schools should enable groups of parents and others to tackle serious educational disadvantage by giving providers freedom from local authorities and the national curriculum to develop life changing education.
 

“We also share the concerns of others who argue that the restriction on the formation of for-profit Free Schools is holding back the programme’s drive to improve educational standards.”
 

Measures to tackle drug and alcohol addiction score 7/10 with the CSJ backing the Government’s decision to put full recovery at the heart of treatment programmes.
   

The CSJ identifies a lack of vision in policies aimed at tackling serious personal debt, made worse by unscrupulous loan sharks, and awards a mark of 6/10. But it commends the £73 million set aside to develop credit unions and give the poor access to money at reasonable interest rates.More information 

Full Report: Building a Social Recovery? A first year report card on the Coalition Government 10/05/2011 

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