Think Tanks

Centre for Social Justice

22 Dec 2010 10:49:34

David Blunkett and Frank Field join advisory council of the Centre for Social Justice

Paul Goodman

To date, the only politicians on the CSJ's Advisory Council have been Conservatives - Robert Halfon, William Hague, Syed Kamall, Oliver Letwin, and David Willetts.

Blunkett will actually co-chair the body - which confirms that the CSJ is seeking to extend its political reach.  Since this is so, when will a Liberal Democrat be co-opted?

Blunkett is quoted as saying -
“I’m very pleased to be joining with colleagues from all political parties and none to form the Centre for Social Justice’s Advisory Council. We face continuing challenges in this country when it comes to making sure that every child has the chance to grow up free from poverty and deprivation, strengthening families and communities, and putting people in control of their own lives.
No one party or group has a monopoly of wisdom on these subjects, and I am firmly of the view that we should spend more time thinking about the ideas, rather than where the ideas come from.
This is a moment in time when it is possible to engage with a wider audience than the usual political elite in a debate about where Britain will go following the coalition’s deficit reduction strategy – and the redefining and restructuring the of the relationship between the State and the individual, the market and public service ethos.”

And Field - most Conservatives favourite member of the Labour Party (not a label that necessarily pleases him) said -
“I am delighted to be joining the Advisory Council of the Centre for Social Justice. It is a premier think tank which does not wish to only debate social issues but comes up with radical solutions.”

7 Dec 2010 08:56:11

Instability of cohabitation is driving epidemic of family breakdown

Tim Montgomerie

BARRIE_-FATHERLESS A new report from the Centre for Social Justice and the Bristol Community Family Trust finds that children are more and more likely to see their parents split. 48% of children are likely to see their family break up before they are sixteen. Ten years ago the break up percentage was still a shocking 40%.

The CSJ/BFCT research, undertaken by Harry Benson, finds that it is the growth in the less stable relationship of cohabitation that is increasing the fragility of relationships. He writes:

“Of every £7 spent on family breakdown among young families (by the taxpayer), £1 is spent on divorce, £4 is spent on unmarried dual registered parents who separate and £2 is spent on sole registered parents. While marriage accounts for 54 per cent of births, the failure of marriages – ie divorce – accounts for only 20 per cent of break-ups and 14 per cent of the costs of family breakdown, among all families with children under five.”

Gavin Poole, Director of the CSJ, commented:

“These new figures underline the alarming and growing level of family breakdown in the UK. This imposes huge costs on society – both in terms of human unhappiness and financial burdens. It is well known that children from broken homes do less well at school and are more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol and crime. As for the financial penalties, the taxpayer is spending at least £20 billion a year trying to repair the damage done by family breakdown. New steps, such as tax breaks for marriage and far better relationship education, should be taken by Ministers and society at large to reverse these worrying social trends.”

Read more in today's Daily Mail and detail at the Centre for Social Justice website.

David Cameron is due to make a speech on family policy later this week. His ambition to support marriage has been constrained by the Liberal Democrats but Iain Duncan Smith recently set out the policy action he still hoped might be possible. Mr Cameron is expected to respond to last week's report from Frank Field which argued that good parenting is essential to a young child's development.

Meanwhile research from the USA does appear to show that the process of getting married does change men and the advantages of marriage are not just about pre-selection.

24 Nov 2010 08:42:03

The challenge of caring for Britain's ageing population

Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-11-24 at 08.34.30 Published yesterday was an extraordinarily detailed report from the Centre for Social Justice, examining Britain's ageing society and the extent to which family breakdown was leaving older people isolated and lonely.

Here are some of the key facts from the report:

  • Life expectancy: One in four boys and one in three girls born today will now live to 100.
  • Dependency boom: By the year 2024 one in five people will be of pensionable age; a 32% increase.
  • Concentrated poverty: One in five pensioners in the UK lives below the poverty line and just under a third of care home residents are estimated to be malnourished.
  • Loneliness: Almost one in ten people aged 65 and over report regularly or always feeling lonely.
  • In need of Care: The number of older people in the UK in need of care and support is expected to soar by 1.7 million over the next 20 years and that the number with dementia could double in 30 years.

The report - The Forgotten Age - does not include many policy prescriptions. It has the feel of the 2006 CSJ report, Breakdown Britain, which documented the nature of poverty in the UK. It was followed by Breakthrough Britain, which set out solutions.

Gavin Poole, CSJ Director, commented:

“The ‘pathways to poverty’ we identified in Breakthrough Britain all extend into older age. The scars of a drug or alcohol addiction will be worn throughout older age in terms of finances and health; the breakdown of a family creates a fragmentation of a potential care and support system for its oldest members; a lifetime of economic dependency translates to a lack of stability and security.”

A glaring example of this devastating social breakdown is family breakdown – now impacting the old. High rates of divorce and the collapse of long-standing cohabiting relationships are weakening the bonds between pensioners and their children, meaning that fewer are able or willing to care for their ageing parents as they encounter the physical and emotional strains of their later years."

> The full CSJ press release.

6 Sep 2010 06:17:34

Ian Parsley: The Centre for Social Justice's new report on social breakdown in Northern Ireland shows that simply throwing money at problems does not work

Ian Parsley Ian Parsley was Conservative and Unionist candidate for North Down at this year's general election and has been an advisor to the Centre for Social Justice in Northern Ireland since September 2009. Here he draws on the conclusions of the CJS's report, Breakthrough Northern Ireland, which was published at the end of last week.

The recent Breakthrough Northern Ireland report, upon which I advised the Centre for Social Justice, is a complex, 50-page document analysing in depth not just the scale but also the specific nature of social breakdown in Northern Ireland. Sensationalist headlines have appeared in the regional press about it, but these not only fail to do it justice, but also miss the point - namely that most of these problems are entirely in line with the rest of the UK. Far from Northern Ireland being a "basket case" as suggested in one newspaper, in the field of tackling poverty we have much to teach, as well as learn; and much of what it has to learn has to be applied by the Executive in Belfast, not the Cabinet in London.

Northern Ireland, in my view, has two distinct advantages when it comes to reversing the five pathways to poverty identified by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) in its seminal research (and which inform much of the new Coalition Government's work on welfare reform). The first is that with our devolved settlement, local politicians are able to take the principles of the CSJ's research and tailor them according to local needs. The second is that, for all the negative trends, Northern Ireland is comparatively advanced in areas such as addiction recovery progammes (even if there just aren't enough of them) and basic community cohesion, and thus has a foundation to tackle poverty within local communities which does not necessarily exist elsewhere.

Where Northern Ireland falls down particularly is on worklessness, and herein lies the biggest challenge to existing attitudes among our politicians and in society more generally. Executive ministers cannot go on promoting the illogical idea that because Northern Ireland has higher rates of non-working families, it should be immune from welfare reforms designed to put people into work; nor is the excuse that we do not have enough work a valid one. Even in times of "full-employment", nearly 30% of the working-age population were not in work in Northern Ireland - yet labour shortages saw immigration to fill positions; in any case, having more people in work will in itself create more job opportunities. All the evidence is that, far from opposing programmes designed to put people back into work, we in Northern Ireland should be piloting them!

If only one thing comes out of this report, it should be this: some of the assumptions underpinning Executive policy in Northern Ireland are out-dated or even just lazy. Throwing money at the problem has not worked, and defining success by the amount of money spent provides no evidence of real positive change. In its 50 pages, the report provides a voice for those trapped in poverty and evidence - direct from the coalface - of the real cost of social breakdown (and associated social division). That evidence should be a basis towards re-shaping our attitudes towards tackling poverty and all the pathways which lead to it. If we have less money with which to tackle it over the coming years, that is all the more reason for ensuring the way we spend it provides real value and delivers tangible success.

2 Aug 2010 09:12:22

Centre for Social Justice urges Treasury to make wiser cuts

The new Director of the Centre for Social Justice (announcement here), Gavin Poole, has kicked off his leadership of the think tank founded by Iain Duncan Smith in a manner that will underline his determination to be an independent-minded voice.

The view of ministers in many Whitehall departments is that George Osborne and Danny Alexander are forcing cuts in spending without a strategic view of which services are most important to protect. The Treasury has always been a reform-weary department and the fear is that officials have captured Mr Osborne for their approach.

Mr Poole issued this statement:

“Our fear is that cuts will be made the wrong way. Instead of assessing the true productivity of programmes and cutting those that are ineffective, we will see salami-slicing: equal cuts off all programmes, good and bad. We will see cuts based on political calculation from politicians and cuts based on administrative ease for Civil Servants. What we won’t see is an overarching rational approach which looks at what works in achieving the Government’s core objectives. Ministers are effectively flying blind, under orders to cut programmes by up to 40 per cent but with confused guidance about their departments' objectives and how they should choose between spending options. The Spending Review Framework announced the end of the public service agreement targets, but was completely silent on what should replace them.”

PooleST In an article for yesterday's Sunday Times (£) Mr Poole looked for inspiration across the Atlantic:

"The Washington State Institute for Public Policy in the US, an independent body that assesses the cost-effectiveness of social spending, is helping the state of Washington to achieve better value for public spending. For example, when the institute found that an intensive early intervention initiative called the Nurse Family Partnership had generated almost $3 (£1.90) in savings for every dollar invested, the state decided to divert more money towards it."

The Sunday Times welcomed the CSJ thinking in its leader column (£):

"This is an opportunity to get things right, to tackle the cycle of idleness and dependency and the “why work?” syndrome. It is also an opportunity to make sure the cuts made now give us a state that is smaller and more sustainable, not one that will have voters crying out for the politicians to turn the taps back on. The spending axe has to fall. It is important, however, that it does so smartly."

Download a PDF of the new CSJ paper.

12 Jul 2010 10:47:30

Centre for Social Justice sets out tough approch to get addicts off drugs and alcohol

Ken Clarke recently caused a flurry when he said that short sentences should be scrapped.  The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), which this morning published a Green Paper on Criminal Justice and Addiction, agrees with him - as the paper makes clear.

The media may thus pick up this one element of the report, causing some to claim that the CSJ's "soft on crime".  A fairer reading is that the proposals set out on the Green Paper, viewed as a whole, represent "tough love", inspired by the compassion-imbued, Christianity-inspired vision characteristic of the institution.

Key recommendations include -

  • Scrapping the National Treatment Agency for drug addicts and replacing it with an Addiction Recovery Board charged with getting addicts off drugs and alcohol through, for instance, greater use of pioneering recovery communities.
  • A zero-tolerance approach by the police to anti-social behaviour with every officer given the freedom to exercise common-sense and discretion and intervene immediately to nip in the bud loutish behaviour.
  • Electing new crime and justice commissioners to bring control of local policing back into local hands.
  • Abolishing the expensive, bureaucratic and remote National Offender Management System (NOMS) and replacing it with local trusts working closely with communities and elected police commissioners.
  • A renewed assault on drug and alcohol use in prison to include tougher enforcement through the greater use of sniffer dogs and drug testing and rehousing inmates in secure community rehabilitation centres.
  • A second chance Act to enable and assist people with a criminal record to find stable employment

The proposals sound like a mix of greater localism, a prison crackdown on illegal drugs and a transformation of the state agencies that deal with rehabilitation.

Paul Goodman

27 Jun 2010 19:43:08

Gavin Poole and Mark Florman take charge of Centre for Social Justice

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith MP - in the news this week for wanting to raise the retirement age and introduce a right-to-move for social housing tenants (that's a right, Mr Balls, not a duty) - has formally stepped down as the Chairman of the Centre for Social Justice. He will now have the non-executive title of Founder and Life Patron, following his appointment as Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions.

The CSJ's Executive Director, Philippa Stroud is also leaving - becoming IDS' Special Adviser.

The third of the CSJ's losses is Charlotte Pickles. Charlie was the Centre's Policy Director but has been seconded to work alongside IDS and Philippa Stroud.

Together they make a formidable team. Suzie Squires, formerly media adviser to the TaxPayers' Alliance, has also joined Iain Duncan Smith's office at W&P.

Gpool_conference Gavin Poole is the new Executive Director of the CSJ. Gavin joined the CSJ after 23 years of service in the Royal Air Force where his final appointment was as a Ministerial Private Secretary within the Ministry of Defence. Gavin commanded at squadron and wing level in times of peace and conflict.

He brings experience in strategic planning, organisational reform, change management and the implementation of policy. He holds an MBA from Cranfield and an MA in War Studies from King's College London. He joined the CSJ in October 2008 as Strategy Director.

Mark Florman, who served on the CSJ's Board of Directors since its inception and was the Centre's first donor, has been appointed the new Chairman.

Earlier this year the CSJ was voted as the think tank that had the most influence on the Cameron project by a ConservativeHome panel of influentials. Special congratulations for that reputation must go to Philippa Stroud who worked tirelessly to apply a lifetime of working for the most broken members of society - including those with serious addictions and the homeless - to public policy.

1 Apr 2010 14:31:47

Centre for Social Justice and Policy Exchange are best regarded think tanks by ConservativeHome's 'influentials panel'

Over the last few days ConservativeHome has been surveying readers and 'influentials' about the quality of the London think tanks. Tomorrow we'll publish how readers voted. Today we publish the results of voting by 94 influential journalists, parliamentarians, bloggers and other thought-leaders.

The Centre for Social justice was voted the think tank that has had the biggest influence on the Cameron project

CSJ The CSJ only just beat Policy Exchange. The CSJ won 40 votes and PX won 36 votes. Third, a long way behind, was Respublica with 5 votes.

The CSJ has played a leading role in David Cameron's biggest idea, "the Big Society". Seventy CSJ policy ideas have been adopted by the Conservative Party.

Policy Exchange was voted the think tank that was most effective overall


It won 33 votes. The CSJ won 29 votes. The TaxPayers' Alliance won 18 votes. PX's most recent success was its publication arguing against NI rises.

The TaxPayers' Alliance was voted the think tank likely to cause most difficulty for any Conservative government

TPA It won a massive 55 of the votes in this section. Next came Reform with 10 votes and then the Centre for Policy Studies with 8 votes. The TPA recently produced a manifesto that set it against key parts of the Conservative programme. The Left's argument that it is a Tory front organisation is not believed by our panel of influentials.

The Adam Smith Institute was voted the think tank best at developing new talent

NewTalent The ASI won 18 votes. Policy Exchange won 16 votes. The TaxPayers' Alliance and the CSJ both won 14 votes.

8 Feb 2010 07:00:00

The Centre for Social Justice announces new work programmes on reoffending and Britain's ageing population

Later today Iain Duncan Smith will unveil a new work programme for his Centre for Social Justice. In an advance press release the former Tory leader lists some of the challenges he hopes to address.

Citing research data Mr Duncan Smith highlights crime...

  • Nearly four in five teenagers leaving custody go on to commit a further crime, according to the latest figures.
  • And 69% of those completing community sentences also reoffend.

...and Britain's ageing population:

  • The fastest growing age group in the country is the over-80s, which now make up 4.5% of the population or 2.75 million. This has increased from 2.8 per cent or 1.57 million over the past 25 years.
  • The numbers of pensioners are around 11 million or 19% of the population. This is expected to increase to 15 million in 20 years.
  • Some 2.5 million pensioners are living below the poverty line and nearly a quarter of single female pensioners have no savings at all – compared with one fifth of single male pensioners.

7 Feb 2010 08:54:30

CSJ proposes that houses with new granny flats should be exempt from Capital Gains Tax

Within a report about caring for Britain's ageing population the Centre for Social Justice suggests that householders who build a 'granny flat' should be exempt from capital gains tax when they come to sell it.

The Sunday Telegraph reports:

"A family who bought a house for £200,000, built a granny flat for £50,000 and sold the property for £400,000 would normally have to pay CGT of about 18 per cent on a share of the profits, or about £10,000. They would be spared this under the CSJ plan. Mr Duncan Smith's group is also studying plans to exempt granny flats from additional council tax or VAT charges."