Think Tanks

Centre for Social Justice

21 Aug 2011 08:06:42

Harriet Crawford: Using education to end the conveyor belt to crime

Harriet Crawford of the Centre for Social Justice writes about the role education can play in lifting young people off the conveyor belt to crime. As in all contributions to this series she suggests practical measures to improve education for the most disadvantaged.

Nothing raises the aspirations of children and young people like effective education.  If this Government is able to achieve its valuable promise of radical education reform, we will at last begin to slow Britain’s criminal conveyor belt.  Where there is abuse, dysfunction or neglect at home – a tragic reality for too many of tomorrow’s adults – where there is a lack of productivity in a community, and where life skills are absent, our schools should be engine rooms of social mobility.

Yet during last week’s riots we saw the involvement of children as young as seven years old. More broadly, we know that seven in ten young offenders describe their academic attainment as nil and that a third of the adult prison population was in care as a child.  For too many in the UK’s most deprived areas, our education system falls shamefully short.  As such, it consigns thousands to a purposeless future on society’s scrapheap.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) published Breakthrough Britain, a report which examined this dangerous pattern of educational failure in the UK, and made recommendations for urgent action. For generation upon failed generation, little has been done through our schools to lift the achievements and broaden the horizons of the young people at the bottom of society’s ladder.  And as these riots have shown, educational failure has a huge social and economic price tag which we all pay.

Continue reading "Harriet Crawford: Using education to end the conveyor belt to crime" »

19 Aug 2011 07:33:32

Alexandra Crossley: Disrupting the gangs that feed the conveyor belt to crime

Alexandra Crossley of the Centre for Social Justice recommends action against gangs in the fourth part of our series on lifting young people off the conveyor belt to crime. Previous entries have looked at early intervention, family and parenting and community policing.


The involvement of street gangs in the violence and criminality that exploded onto our streets last week comes as no surprise to those working in Britain’s most deprived neighbourhoods. Over the past ten years, an undercurrent of gang culture has been simmering beneath the surface of mainstream society.

Central and local government action to tackle this problem has been inadequate and as a result, street gangs have become a way of life for thousands of young people.  Worse still, lives have been tragically lost.

Inaction cannot be blamed on confusion. We know what factors drive gang involvement. Family breakdown, in particular fatherlessness, is at the heart of the problem: the gang gives young people in our most deprived communities a sense of belonging and safety, where a family does not. Similarly, for young people growing up in neighbourhoods with worklessness and dependency, educational failure and a poverty of aspiration, the gang offers a way out. It can offer a lucrative alternative to mainstream employment (some gang members earn £1,000 a week at age 14) as well as status and power. For many, gangs have the answer to the ills of society’s most disenfranchised and deprived young people.

Continue reading "Alexandra Crossley: Disrupting the gangs that feed the conveyor belt to crime " »

16 Aug 2011 08:01:20

Samantha Callan: Early intervention is key to stopping young people turning to crime

ConservativeHome is today beginning a series of policy-orientated pieces looking at how we take young people off the conveyor belt to crime. We begin with this article from Samantha Callan of the Centre for Social Justice looking at the importance of early intervention.

The best time and place to apply the crowbar to the conveyor belt to crime is before it starts moving – early in a vulnerable child’s life or at the first signs of trouble. When police were first faced with rioters they were criticised for collecting evidence of acts of disorder and not preventing it from happening in front of them. Yet that’s precisely what we tend to do with our most troubled families: we condemn their parenting when their children and young people fall foul of the law but are reluctant to step in – and help – before the line is crossed.

The emphasis on Early Intervention that runs through almost every important report on improving social mobility cannot remain a lofty concept in social policy – or be used to justify even more state intrusion into family life. Early intervention rests on a recognition that children’s physical, social, intellectual and emotional development is heavily influenced by their early experiences. Healthy brain development, in particular, requires a nurturing and responsive parent or caregiver. Abused and neglected children are at least 25% more likely to become involved in delinquency, to fall pregnant in their teenage years and to become drug users, as well as to suffer from mental health problems.

All too often this repeats a dysfunctional cycle – perhaps one of their parents was an addict or severely depressed and unable to meet their emotional and physical needs. Sometimes a tragedy strikes an otherwise robust family, parents find themselves unable to cope and there is no one else around to prevent the children falling through the cracks. Divorce and separation can also hit children hard. It’s not all about the early years but they do set the tone.

Continue reading "Samantha Callan: Early intervention is key to stopping young people turning to crime" »

14 Aug 2011 08:22:29

We don't need an inquiry into the riots. The Centre for Social Justice has been looking at these questions for seven years.

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter.

Both Ed Miliband and The Spectator's Fraser Nelson have called for an inquiry into last week's riots. It's the sort of thing politicians always do after big events. And some narrow inquiries are certainly needed. One is already underway into the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, in Tottenham. We also need an investigation into police tactics for the first three nights of disturbances. If Sir Hugh Orde is so keen to take credit for the Met getting it right on night four he should take responsibility for the bloody chaos of nights one, two and three and the huge damage those nights did to public confidence. A YouGov poll found that just 1% of people think the police were tough enough. 84% think the police weren't tough enough.

But as I write in my column for this morning's Sunday Telegraph, the Centre for Social Justice (and its predecessor organisation, Renewing One Nation) has been examining these issues over a long period:

"Over the past decade, Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice has been immersed in these social issues and has produced many compelling recommendations for action. Only a fraction of the centre’s ideas have, so far, been embraced by the Coalition. As Welfare Secretary, Duncan Smith is pursuing benefits reform but the centre’s work on early intervention, parenting, gang warfare, indebtedness and voluntary sector funding has been left to gather dust on a shelf."


A quick look at the CSJ's publications page shows the range of topics they've covered. Debt. employment. education. Welfare reform. Early intervention. Family law reform. Homelessness... I could go on. Go to the other think tanks. Civitas or Reform on education. Policy Exchange on job creation. The IEA on urban enterprise zones. An inquiry would take months, at best, and probably years. We need to seize the moment. Cameron needs to seize the moment and get on with a task that cannot be delayed.

26 Jul 2011 08:53:53

Here you go George; A Growth Manifesto from London's think tanks

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter.


On our Comment pages today Mark Field MP sets out the two great truths of the economic debate:

One: We must carry on with the Osborne deficit reduction programme. When you are in a worldwide debt crisis you have to get your debts under control.

Two: The Coalition hasn't got an adequate growth agenda.

Read Mark's piece.

So what can the Coalition do to achieve growth? I asked some of London's top think tanks to recommend some ideas. The list below is far from exhaustive. Missing, for example, are ideas to modernise trade union laws and the Civitas think tank's thinking on better procurement. I also dismiss the idea that a growth agenda cannot have immediate effects. While it's true that many supply side measures can take years to yield benefits (this is certainly true of the Coalition's excellent welfare and school reforms) some - such as tax reforms and deregulation - can produce immediate benefits. There is also the impact on confidence. If the government looks serious about long-term competitiveness then overseas and domestic investors are more likely to stay and expand in Britain.

"If the Government keeps living beyond the means of British taxpayers and businesses, then growth will continue to be limited.  By reducing the incentive to work and invest, high taxes diminish economic growth.  For some tax cuts, the economic effect is dramatic enough they can increase revenue.  That is the case with a lower corporate tax rate, the Government could cut a lot further and faster than they are, and abolishing the 50p rate of income tax.  But there are other tax cuts that would boost growth as well, such as a cut in National Insurance.  And more broadly the relationship between spending and growth shows that imposing too great a burden on taxpayers depresses growth.  European Central Bank estimates imply Brown’s increase in spending as a share of national income left GDP over £100 billion lower by 2010-11." - Matt Sinclair of The TaxPayers' Alliance

More: The TaxPayers' Alliance's Tax Reform Commission.

"In the current circumstances it is clear that the UK cannot afford, above all unilaterally, to move to a low carbon, let alone a zero carbon, economy. A low carbon economy means a high energy cost economy. At the very least, the Government should phase out all energy subsidies of all kinds, and suspend unilateral targets until such time as all other major nations have signed up to the same course. For the UK to go it alone is not merely suicidal but pointless. Decarbonisation requires growing subsidies from the taxpayer and sharply increased energy bills for business, industry, and households. At a time when painful cuts are unavoidable, it makes no sense to make British industry – and manufacturing in particular - uncompetitive, or to drive it overseas, and thus greatly weaken our economy, by ratuitously driving up energy costs." - Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Forum

"The coalition needs to create an environment much more conducive to enterprise. A systematic programme of deregulation should be at the heart of this. The government should start by dismantling employment regulation. Legislation that makes it more expensive to hire workers, such as anti-discrimination legislation, should be repealed. The minimum wage should be regionalised. If the government has not got the courage for radical reform, wide-ranging exemptions for small firms would be a start." - Mark Littlewood of the Institute of Economic Affairs

More: Deregulating the labour market; deregulating energy and transport; deregulating financial sector; deregulating business; and deregulating business.

"Coherent reform of public services is a necessary part of the recovery. It will enable public spending to be restrained while meeting the demands for improved services and it will increase the productivity of the economy, raising living standards for everyone. Poor performing education, health and welfare systems already impose significant costs on the wider economy.  Demographic changes mean that the costs facing government in areas like pensions and healthcare are accelerating rapidly.  The Treasury has made the right call on the big question of deficit reduction, but has undermined the Government's commitment to value for money by ring-fencing certain public sector budgets.  The commitment to the National Curriculum is just one example of the fact that neither Health nor Education have dismantled central regulation and made services accountable to their users." - Andrew Haldenby of Reform

More: Reform's "It Can Be Done" report on public service reform.

“Any growth strategy has to deal with the problem of excessive employment law. According to the World Bank, UK labour market flexibility has slipped down the international league table – from 17th in 2007, to 21st in 2008, to 28th in 2009 and then to 35th in 2010. What was once a source of strength for the UK has become a source of weakness. A moratorium on new laws combined with some deregulation would boost business performance, job creation and restore the UK’s labour market competitiveness. For example, we need to deal with the fact that too many employers are being held to ransom in employment tribunals by vexatious employees and their ‘no win no fee’ lawyers.” - Alistair Tebbit of the Institute of Directors

"There are two fundamental requirements of competitive markets: first, the possibility of 'free entry' for new players and 'free exit' for those that fail; second, that cartels do not dominate a market. British banks fail on both points. That is why they are still not lending enough to small businesses. Why they are still paying senior staff huge bonuses (on top of salaries that were increased to make up for supposed cuts in bonuses). And how the top five banks control 80% of the market (a percentage that is climbing higher and higher). Deep seated banking reform must break up this cosy cartel. We need a new Financial Competition Commission to carry out investigations of individual firms or of product areas, with the power to make recommendations to the Bank of England to promote competition between banks; to remove barriers to entry (and promote new competition); to take steps to permit the orderly exit of failed institutions (break up institutions that are ‘too big to fail’); and to do more to ensure products and services offered are themselves subject to competition. Finally, state-owned banks must be returned to the private sector as soon as they are strong enough; and at the best possible price and greatest reward for the taxpayer (who took on all the risk when the shares were nationalised)." - Tim Knox of the Centre for Policy Studies

More: Niall Ferguson's Too Big To Live; Andrea Leadsom MP's Boost Bank Competition; and James Conway's Give Us our Fair Shares.

"Domestic competition is seen as good because it keeps producers sharp. So why resist it from abroad? Yet we slap import duties on shoes, cereals, electronics – there’s even a tariff of up to 48.5% on Chinese bicycles. Such protectionism allows our producers to coast along instead of becoming world class. It means less choice and value for consumers. And if we are buying less from abroad, people in other countries will have fewer pounds in their pockets to spend back here, so other UK exporters suffer. Let’s not wait for world agreement, but push for bilateral free trade treaties with any country we can – particularly the poorest, who have most to gain." - Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute

"Welfare reform should not go faster nor deeper than an £18 billion cut. It should, however, move beyond ‘making work pay’. This would mean: Increasing conditionality by asking more of individuals who spend as little as eight minutes a day looking for work; introducing welfare accounts that re-instate the link between what people contribute through national insurance and what they can get out; and privatising some functions of Jobcentre Plus and re-negotiating parts of Work Programme contracts to allow some claimants to get personalised support from day one of their claim. These reforms would provide a critical boost to growth: they would make the welfare system effective in matching claimants to jobs and make the best of the talent of the UK population." - Matt Oakley for Policy Exchange

"In terms of short term hindrances to growth, the total annual cost of family breakdown is £41.74 billion or £1,364 for every taxpayer. Reducing these direct costs would plug a big hole in national and local finances but there are other harder-to-measure indirect costs which hamper our long term economic prospects. The fallout from broken family relationships can hinder children’s educational achievement, dampen their self esteem and affect their physical and mental health - ultimately threatening their creativity, well-being and future productivity. We need to make sure the next spending review includes specific investment in universal credit to eliminate the couple penalty; local councils should collect data on relationship statuses and be set delivery outcomes by national government so they can demonstrate how their policies  are providing relationship support and stabilising relationships in their area; other initiatives that help families (such as Family Nurse Partnerships and Family Intervention Projects) should specifically include couple support - often most effectively delivered by the voluntary sector." - Samantha Callan of the Centre for Social Justice

More: Action on the family.

"The Government needs to push for a long-term solution to the eurozone debt crisis – bailouts aren’t working, debt restructuring will be needed. The longer the crisis goes on, the worse the prospects for eurozone growth and stability look and, as our biggest trading partner, this will have an impact on the UK economy. In the medium-term the UK needs to seek allies in pushing for a better-functioning single market, including deregulation, removing cross-border barriers to services and digital industries, and protecting the interests of the City of London from the EU’s new financial supervisory architecture. This includes securing the flexibility to apply capital requirements for banks as the UK sees fit. In the longer term, the UK should look to diversify its trade away from the eurozone, tapping into the growth potential of emerging markets, which will be necessary in any case but also provides a Plan B if the eurozone fails to get its act together. The UK also needs to continue to push for a reduction in EU external trade barriers and encourage the expansion of free trade agreements with other economies/trading blocs." - Stephen Booth of Open Europe

More from the Open Europe blog: Liberalising the Single Market, Greek debt restructuring, Financial regulation and Trade.

“The Competition Commission needs to be reformed so that it rewards, rather than punishes, firms who share their knowledge on product development and innovation with other UK firms. At present, the UK’s institutional approach encourages firms to compete with each other at every stage, rather than cooperate. Vital information for businesses tends to remain in a particular sector instead of spreading around the whole economy. This puts UK firms at a disadvantage compared to many of their international competitors. Through better knowledge transfer, they can share their ideas on the best strategies to increase revenues and, hence, economic growth.” - Ian Mulheirn of the Social Market Foundation

"Our Government should start by not making matters worse, which means cutting the 50p tax rate, reducing costly regulation, and reversing climate-change policies that are adding so much to the cost of electricity that our key industries will be forced overseas. It should also pursue our enlightened national interest through industrial policy. It should encourage local enterprise banks to restore the initiative to localities. People in the North East, for example, would rally to a local enterprise bank that provided a safe home for their savings and invested them in providing solid, sustainable jobs in the North East." - Dr David Green of Civitas

Read more about Civitas' ideas for a new industrial policy.

"The discussions about boosting the economic performance of UK economy lack clarity and focus. Everyone understands that entrepreneurship and innovation are important for growth, and also that the government has a formidable aptitude to discourage both by ill-advised tax and regulatory policies. We need to move beyond these truisms towards more specific proposals. While we subscribe to many of the views expressed by our colleagues from other London-based think tanks, we believe that any credible pro-growth policy needs to reflect the following two insights, which are conspicuously missing from our present-day discussions.

  • Incentives for private-sector employment for high-productivity individuals. In present times, highly skilled individuals are often likely to end up in professions with low social rate of return and in rent-seeking occupations, instead of going into the private sector and contributing to higher rates of innovation and entrepreneurship. Those occupations might include lobbying, tax advisory services, certain elements of legal counselling, and also the work for the underperforming branches of the public sector. Very often, government jobs bid away labour away from marginal private sector jobs. This is especially worrying in situations when the private sector jobs involve significant positive externalities, which are not reflected in employees' paycheck - such as jobs in private R&D. Tax changes, and removing many of the advantages of public-sector employment, as well as employment in some of the rent-seeking professions, could partly correct for this distortion. Also, a flat subsidy could be given to individuals who migrate into private occupations that can reasonably be seen as productive.
  • Restoring the approbation associated with entrepreneurship and innovation. This might just require a simple change of rhetoric on the part of the coalition. The government should be more vocal in praising succesful entrepreneurs and innovators as the true heros of our societies, instead of lambasting them for not paying their "fair share" in taxes."

- Dalibor Rohac of Legatum

6 Jul 2011 07:22:00

Gavin Poole: Generating jobs for people with limited experience, education or skills

Gavin Poole is Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice.

Poole Gavin The Centre for Social Justice’s (CSJ) new report, Creating Opportunity, Rewarding Ambition, promotes the value of entry level employment and celebrates its contribution to our economy, society and day-to-day lives. It also highlights the centrality of entry level employment in achieving economic growth in the UK.

Building on earlier work by the CSJ in Breakthrough Britain and Dynamic Benefits that focused on welfare reform and the supply side of the unemployment crisis, this report focuses on the demand for labour. The recommendations we made in these earlier reports have been largely accepted by the Government and drive a large part of its current agenda on welfare reform.  But now our immediate challenge is to generate sufficient sustainable long term opportunities for those with limited experience, education or skills.

The report reviewed recent trends in entry level employment and the structural challenges in the economy, and it presents practical ways to improve the outlook for those detached from the workforce.  We believe that employers, job seekers, intermediaries and government all have a role to play in building a society that creates opportunity and rewards ambition.  

Continue reading "Gavin Poole: Generating jobs for people with limited experience, education or skills" »

29 Jun 2011 06:22:06

The Centre for Social Justice explores how society can re-engage with a lost and lonely generation of pensioners

Screen shot 2011-06-14 at 20.25.30Gavin Poole is the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice.

Next week economist Andrew Dilnot will publish his long-awaited proposals on how we should fund social care. Given the current care crisis, that question is a crucial one. But there is an even greater challenge than that: tackling the entrenched isolation of over a million pensioners.

During the course of our work over the last eighteen months we have met many older people completely cut off from community. In Leeds we visited Mrs Thomas, 72, a former teacher who lives in a house which is falling apart, devoid of furniture and damaging to her health. The only child of an only child, left by her husband in her late 20s, Mrs Scott has no immediate nor extended family. Her human contact is limited to half an hour a week – the neighbour who takes her to Morrisons.

Mrs Scott is no ‘outlier’. The statistics are shocking but all too familiar. Over a million people aged 65 and over report feeling lonely often or always. A similar number say they feel trapped in their homes. Half of all older people cite television as their main form of company. And, according to the latest figures, an estimated 500,000 pensioners spend Christmas day alone.

We are talking about men and women totally separated from society – who never set foot out of the door because last time they did they were harassed by local kids. People whose connection to the wider world is restricted to a quick call from a relative the other side of the country or a palliative care nurse who drops in to check medication.

Continue reading "The Centre for Social Justice explores how society can re-engage with a lost and lonely generation of pensioners" »

15 Jun 2011 05:46:08

Gavin Poole: It's time to stamp out the evil of slavery in Britain

Gavin Poole is the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice.

Screen shot 2011-06-14 at 20.25.30 Modern day slavery - the buying and selling of people at low risk for high profit - is spilling into the UK at worrying levels. Today, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) begins its review on slavery and human trafficking in the UK, in order to identify how we are reacting to the number of slaves within our communities. The slave trade targets the most vulnerable individuals in communities across the world, and it is time for the UK to become the global beacon for anti-slavery action once again. The UK has a remarkable legacy of anti-slavery activity, yet slaves remain hidden in our society today.

Our work will take a close and uncompromising look at the stark reality of child trafficking within the UK. The transporting of underage UK nationals between towns and cities, often for the purpose of sexual exploitation, is a growing threat to vulnerable children; last week’s arrest of 26 men in Rochdale over the prostitution and trafficking of young girls provides a shocking reminder. The psychological and emotional control these men had over girls young enough to still be in school is unthinkable, and it is uncertain just how many more organised gangs of traffickers are operating here, exploiting and abusing British children. We cannot box this off as an immigration issue.

Continue reading "Gavin Poole: It's time to stamp out the evil of slavery in Britain" »

10 May 2011 08:29:14

Gavin Poole: Courage, not concessions, will build a social recovery

Gavin Poole is Director of the Centre for Social Justice. He writes for ConservativeHome about his new report which ranks the Coalition's progress in helping people to follow what the CSJ calls "the five pathways out of poverty".


The Coalition will survive this first real test.  Cabinet fall outs and public spats aside, its leaders need each other and they know it.  Members of the Government understand better than anyone that they require a record to defend on general election day.  For the only thing worse than answering accusations of betrayal, is doing so with nothing to show for it.

Both sides have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build that record.  Balance the books yes, but there is a chance to do something more extraordinary for Britain, especially for those trapped in poverty.  For years successive governments have failed to define poverty or confront its root causes.  Instead, politicians have become obsessed with an arbitrary line that measures income inequality, set typically at 60 per cent national median income.  This has driven almost every poverty initiative.  Vast swathes of public money have been thrown at specific groups who live below this line in an attempt to lift them above it.  Accordingly, through tweaks to our perverse welfare system, this so-called poverty measure has meant that households living in poverty one day can wake free from it the next.  But ultimately this strategy has failed those who most need help.  A few extra pounds in the pocket are insufficient to break poverty’s suffocating culture of damage and despair.

Last May it appeared we finally had a Government that ‘got it’.  In particular we commended the Prime Minister for realising that if you look closer at poverty, it has five common causes and consequences.  The CSJ calls these the pathways to poverty, and we’ve found them time and again in Britain’s deprived communities.  They are family breakdown, educational failure, economic dependency and worklessness, serious personal debt, and addiction to drugs and alcohol.  Crucially, the pathways are interconnected and intergenerational.  Our research shows that a child who experiences family breakdown is more likely to fail at school.  Someone who fails at school is less likely to find work and more likely to rely on benefits.  Someone living on benefits is more likely to fall into debt.  And so the cycle continues.  They demand life-changing interventions, not just income adjustments.

Continue reading "Gavin Poole: Courage, not concessions, will build a social recovery" »

19 Apr 2011 11:17:48

Is there a connection between record family breakdown and the world's least family-friendly tax system?

Matthew Barrett and Tim Montgomerie

CSJ A new Centre for Social Justice report by Professor Rebecca Probert of Warwick University and Dr Samantha Callan, the CSJ's senior family researcher, has shown that Britain’s levels of births outside marriage are at the highest point for at least 200 years.

The research shows that: 

  • Levels of births outside marriage were the same in the 1950s as the 1750s, at around 5%;
  • The percentage of births outside marriage in the England and Wales hovered around 5% (except during the two world wars) before rising in the 1960s onwards;
  • By the late 1970s, this figure was above 10%;
  • By 1991 it was 30%
  • Today it is 45%.

The research refutes the assertion of a number of academics and campaigners that current levels of cohabitation and family breakdown are not unusually high compared to other points in Britain's history. The CSJ research confirms that the "sexual revolution" of the 1960s was a turning point in the state of Britain's families. Long-standing family research has shown that children brought up by lone parents are much more likely to be unsuccessful at school, and 50% more likely to have alcohol problems. 

Gavin Poole, Executive Director of the CSJ, said:

“Current high levels of cohabitation are a key factor in the rise in family breakdown in our country and this paper shows that we have not been here before. The CSJ has consistently argued, from the evidence, that marriage and commitment tend to stabilise and strengthen families and cannot be ignored.”

Kirby-Jill Recent research showed that Britain had one of the world's least family-friendly tax systems. In today's Telegraph Jill Kirby encourages the Coalition government to look abroad to correct this:

"Most European countries provide support for marriage or long-term cohabitation through their tax systems, with a range of options from income-splitting to homecare allowances, ensuring that families bear less of the nation’s tax burden while they have children to look after. These allowances remain popular and the trend shows no sign of abating."

Read Jill's full article.