Jonty Olliff-Cooper is Director of Policy & Strategy at A4e
It is time for a Ministry of Social Justice. Creating new departments has a bad reputation in Westminster. Civil servants working on planning must have ost track of the number of times their department has mutated from the old Department of the Environment to John Prescott's DETR and MAFF, to DEFRA and DCLG. The business department has suffered a similar fate, evolving from The Board of Trade to the DTI, DBERR, BERR, Mandelson's super department BIS and now its Cable successor. Merely unscrewing a nameplate in Whitehall achieves nothing. However, there is now a serious case for the reorganisation of government around social justice.
The issue has been put on the agenda by the riots. A better reason for a new Ministry is that successive governments have failed to make transformative progress on the root causes of poverty. Tackling these root causes requires a joined up approach. Integrating services becomes more crucial the more deprived you are, as problems heap upon problems in a downward spiral. A classic example is the interrelationship between depression and unemployment. Depression might lead to job loss. But being unemployed is known to affect mental health. One reinforces the other. The answer is to tackle both simultaneously, as numerous reports and bodies have recommended - such as Breakthrough Britain, the Making Every Adult Matter coalition, the Frank Field review, the Social Exclusion Task Force, and The Family Life Chances report. But although the problems are closely connected, the support we offer is not.