Think Tanks

Compassionate Conservatism

21 May 2012 15:30:28

The Centre for Social Justice attacks Coalition's record on family and voluntary sector, but praises progress on welfare and schools

By Tim Montgomerie
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One year ago the Centre for Social Justice graded the Coalition on what it regards as the key pathways out of poverty and towards prosperous, independent living (ConHome emphasises just three - family, school and work).

Screen Shot 2012-05-21 at 15.06.09

The CSJ has updated the scorecard now that the Coalition is celebrating two years in office. The grades are below (with last year's ratings in brackets):

  • Reforming welfare 8 out of 10 (8)
  • Education 7 out of 10 (6)
  • Drug addiction 7 out of 10 (7)
  • Tacklling debt 6 out of 10 (6)
  • Family policy 4 out of 10 (2)
  • Voluntary sector 2 out of 10 (no rating last year)

The CSJ blames Coalition tensions for the lack of progress on family policy. It says there has been no progress on introducing a married tax break or eliminating the couple penalty in the benefits system. It worries that in focusing on childcare and parental leave it has the same precoccupations as Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. Despite last week's announcement on parent classes it worries that there is a big gap between the Government's words and its wallet:

"The department for education (DFE) has committed to help encourage the take-up of relationship support by providing extra funds for innovative services. overall, however, funding to prevent relationship splits remains below a scant £4 million per year, despite family breakdown carrying an annual price tag of £44 billion."

The Coalition gets the lowest rating for progress on the charitable and voluntary sector. It describes the cap on charitable giving relief as "disastrous". Again the CSJ sees a funding problem; worrying at the impact of spending cuts on the voluntary sector:

"During this past year the Government has set out a vision of social action which is at the heart of mending the UK’s broken society [yet] the charities we need to deliver this agenda have faced unprecedented funding cuts at a local level. More should have been done to protect them in the short-term whilst helping to build their independence over the long-term.The £100 million Transition Fund set up by the Cabinet office is an example of a measure which recognised the sum of the problem and yet was insufficient to meet anywhere near the scale of the need (compare this to the estimated £553 million spent on security for the olympic Games)."

The full report card is here (PDF).

29 Mar 2012 06:55:27

Christian Guy: The Social Justice Strategy should become the centrepiece programme of the Coalition

Guy ChristianChristian Guy is Director of Policy for the Centre for Social Justice.

The ability of the British people to move on and to rebuild distinguishes our country from countless others.  How quickly our determination in the face of adversity rises, and how effectively we recover in the wake of destruction.

Such resilience was evident again last summer, as Britain stared down the rioters, looters and vandals who turned parts of London and our cities into no-go areas.  Before the police gained control, it was ordinary citizens who took a stand.  As each morning came and the cowards went home, it was people of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs who came together to clean up and help those who had lost so much.  This was, and is, what citizenship looks like.

But in our ability to regroup and rebuild, there is one thing we have to be careful to avoid: the tendency to forget.  Seven months on it is easy to forget the sense of siege on the streets last August, the riot vans, the shops and businesses ablaze, our boarded up high streets and offices closing early.

That is why yesterday’s report from the Riots Communities and Victims Panel should act as another reminder to Government that although public order is restored, the threat is far from removed.  In general the Panel’s report contains helpful diagnosis and several valuable, if sometimes vague, recommendations for the political classes.  It is refreshing to read calls for a focus on the 500,000 ‘forgotten families’, often chaotic and dysfunctional, that we so often encounter at the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), and it is about time that others in the policy field recognised how absent fathers damage children.  It is right that the Panel called for action in our schools to ensure those graduating the system are literate, numerate and ready for the real world.  Given the links between rioters and educational exclusion (a third of those rioting were excluded the previous year and a similar number persistently absent from school) we should hit schools that wash their hands of challenging pupils without consideration of their welfare.  And our undemanding, revolving door criminal justice system was again the subject of criticism.  There can be no doubt that the re-offending crisis which endangers our communities played its part in fuelling last summer’s disturbances – many involved had no fear of a criminal record because theirs is already a tome.

Continue reading "Christian Guy: The Social Justice Strategy should become the centrepiece programme of the Coalition" »

24 Dec 2011 08:44:13

The Centre for Social Justice publishes 12 cost-free ideas to tackle poverty

By Tim Montgomerie
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The Centre for Social Justice has today issued a report which notes the loneliness of old people. We tend to focus on the impact of family breakdown on children but it also reduces solidarity across the generations. Read more here.

Screen shot 2011-12-24 at 08.43.13The CSJ has also published twelve cost-free policies to tackle poverty that it recommends to the Coalition:

  1. Broaden your measurement of poverty beyond income inequality, to include important factors such as family breakdown, poor education, worklessness, drug and alcohol abuse, and damaging personal debt.
  2. Enable profit-making organisations to run Free Schools in the poorest areas. This would help bring to scale the number of transformational schools required to fight educational underachievement and boost social mobility.
  3. Help prevent family breakdown by requiring Registrars to point engaged couples towards local marriage preparation and relationship education courses.
  4. Stop providing future Winter Fuel Payments to better off households. Use the money saved to create an investment fund for local projects that support socially isolated pensioners.
  5. Tackle educational exclusion by working with head teachers to get tough on the disengaged parents of pupils with challenging behaviour. Where relevant, cut their benefits to force compliance.
  6. Pressurise prime contractors in the Work Programme to make better use of the most effective charities in delivery. Without action, this essential back-to-work initiative could be undermined.
  7. Stop prisons from releasing offenders on Fridays. It fuels re-offending because many essential services, including those for offenders with addiction problems, are closed during weekends.
  8. Children don’t exist in isolation, they are part of families – so ask local authorities to collect relationship status data to assess the impact of their Child Poverty strategies on families. This should include a distinct category for marriage, to demonstrate its stability.
  9. The Talk to Frank drugs awareness programme is feeble. Urgently replace it with an effective prevention initiative that tells children and young people not to abuse drugs and alcohol.
  10. Work to develop a mentoring culture within business to deliver growth. Established companies should advise start-ups and experienced workers should mentor new entry-level employees.
  11. Allow relaxation of the National Curriculum on a temporary basis for any pupil struggling with basic literacy and numeracy, in order for them to catch up.
  12. Use pro-bono offers from the private and voluntary sectors to start delivering effective financial education for young people, in school and non-school settings.

Twelve brilliant ideas. Read more here (PDF).

18 Dec 2011 08:55:58

The Centre for Social Justice attacks Clegg for anti-marriage speech

By Tim Montgomerie
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As you can read on today's ConHome frontpage Nick Clegg is using a speech to attack Tory policy on marriage and family life. 10 Downing Street interpret the speech as an attempt by Nick Clegg to quell unrest within his party after last week's EU veto. David Cameron's advisers fear that one consequence of the EU issue will be that progress on other Coalition business - unrelated to Europe - is likely, at least for a time, to become more difficult.

CENTRE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICEThe Centre for Social Justice has issued a response to Mr Clegg's intervention, defending the importance of marriage:

  1. "Marriage brings stability: just one in 11 married couples split before their child’s fifth birthday compared to 1 in 3 unmarried couples.
  2. Marriage is directly linked to better mental and physical health amongst adults. The same benefits are not found amongst co-habiting couples, it is specifically a ‘Marriage Effect’.
  3. Marriage reduces the risk of violence and abuse. Children growing up in lone parent or broken families are between 3 and 6 times more likely to suffer serious abuse than those growing up with both biological parents, and the risk of domestic violence is significantly increased for co-habiting women than married women.
  4. Marriage leads to better mental health for children. Children of lone parents are more than twice as likely to suffer mental health problems than children of married couples, and those of co-habiting couples are 75 per cent more likely to have mental health problems than their peers with married parents.
  5. Marriage leads to better life outcomes for children. Children of married parents are more likely to achieve at school, less likely to use drink and drugs and less likely to get involved delinquent or offending behaviour."

Gavin Poole, the Executive Director of the CSJ commented:

“Nick Clegg’s stance flies in the face of all the evidence, completely ignoring national and international data demonstrating how important marriage is to the health and well-being of children and families. Marriage is important because 1 in 3 couples who live together when a child is born split up before that child is five, compared to only 1 in 11 married couples. The Centre for Social Justice have repeatedly called for a tax break for marriage and an end to the couple penalty in the welfare system as a strong signal and vote of support in the institution and as a way of reversing decades of decline in our society.”

Polling by YouGov for the Centree of Social Justice found that "70% of those expressing an opinion support introducing an extra tax allowance for married couples" (PDF).

> On Friday the CSJ's Samantha Callan wrote: The Government is missing a coherent policy to challenge family breakdown

27 Aug 2011 07:24:21

Dominic Llewellyn: Rebuilding British society and tackling societal problems must involve empowering communities

Dominic Llewellyn leads trade missions for social enterprises with the Big Society Network and UKTI, and runs a social innovation consultancy, and is a Governor of Excelsior, Newcastle’s only City Academy.  

The last couple of weeks have shown us British society at its best and at its worst; the horrific scenes we saw of rampaging youths rioting across some of our major cities and the inspiring internet campaign that saw thousands of us clean up our streets. The inspiring campaign however must not mask the fact that pockets of British society are broken and that our communities are fragmented. We need a stronger and bigger society.

Governments have made significant mistakes in the way they have worked with civil society over many decades. Some have sought to control people through the machine of the state, whilst others have abdicated responsibility. I am hopeful that this Government is looking at a different approach. Indeed, in his speech last Monday, David Cameron commented “Government cannot legislate to change behaviour, but it is wrong to think the State is a bystander. Because people’s behaviour does not happen in a vacuum: it is affected by the rules government sets and how they are enforced”.

Continue reading "Dominic Llewellyn: Rebuilding British society and tackling societal problems must involve empowering communities" »

22 Aug 2011 08:12:00

Danny Kruger: 65% of boys with a convicted parent go on to become criminals. We need to change that.

Danny Kruger provides the latest instalment of our series looking at the conveyor belt to crime. Danny who runs a charity for ex-offenders, Only Connect, was a speechwriter for David Cameron.

Kruger-DannyTo my mind the most important development in social policy in recent times wasn’t any innovation in public services. It was the re-discovery (in the words of the title of Sue Gerhardt’s groundbreaking book) of ‘Why Love Matters’. Gerhardt and others, such as Felicity de Zulueta of The Maudsley Hospital and Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids Company, have demonstrated how our early experience of relationships literally shapes our brain, and so conditions the personality we present to the world.

Thus modern neuroscience has brought us back to some very traditional truths – not least the importance of ‘breeding’, a word now lost to polite conversation – and presents a real challenge to the hegemony of liberal social policy.

Liberals of left and right, determined to enforce their respective fetishes – equality or freedom – by intellectual brute force, simply insist that every generation begins the world anew. Circumstances and relationships, the contingent factors which make an idea good or bad in practice, have no place in this worldview. But we are becoming forced, by events and by science, to face facts again.

Continue reading "Danny Kruger: 65% of boys with a convicted parent go on to become criminals. We need to change that." »

26 Apr 2011 07:56:26

What is fairness? What is poverty? Policy Exchange asks the voters...

By Tim Montgomerie

Policy Exchange Over at ToryDiary I look at the PX Poll's implications for the Conservative Party but pasted below are some key findings:


  • Economic responsibility: 59%
  • Fairness: 50%
  • Family values: 32%
  • Traditional values: 29%
  • Equality: 21%
  • Liberty: 20%
  • Patriotism: 17%
  • Environmentalism: 11%


  • 63% of people say that “fairness is about getting what you deserve”, while just 26% say that “fairness is about equality”.
  • By a margin of 73%-18% people agree that society can be fair even if it is unequal – as long as there is equality of opportunity.


  • Reducing unemployment: 45%
  • Cutting tax on low earners: 45%
  • Reducing the cost of living: 38%
  • Improve state education: 29%
  • Increase minimum wage: 29%
  • Reduce crime in poor areas: 23%
  • Increase state pensions: 18%
  • Reducing tuition fees: 11%
  • Banning private education: 4%
  • Increasing welfare benefits: 3%


  • By 48% to 24% people say that people end up poor because of forces outside their control – not their own poor decisions;
  • BUT by 71%-16% they agree with the statement that “Some people who are poor are much more deserving than other people who are poor"


  • By 80% to 13% there is agreement that “people who have been out of work for 12 months or more, who are physically and mentally capable of undertaking a job, should be required to do community work in return for their state benefits.”
  • 49% of respondents back the idea that claimants who break their jobseekers agreement should lose half or more of their benefits.  21% backed the idea that they should lose all their benefits “regardless of the hardship it would cause”.
  • By 50% to 16% people think benefits are too high rather than too low.
  • By a margin of 55% to 36% people disagree with the idea that “People with children should be given higher benefits to compensate for the costs of bringing them up."
  • “The government should try to encourage marriage through the benefits system” is narrowly rejected (45% to 40%) but there is support (59% over 31%) for idea that “The government should try to discourage people from becoming lone parents”.


See the full results here.

7 Mar 2011 08:29:37

Britain has most anti-family tax system in Europe

Tim Montgomerie

The Daily Mail quotes research from the Christian charity Care this morning, noting that Britain's tax system is harder on single earner families than any other major developed country.

The numbered list below records the tax burden on a one earner married couple with two children as a percentage of the burden on a single person with no children - both earning £33,745.

  1. UK 73%
  2. Holland 71%
  3. Sweden 71%
  4. Japan 69%
  5. France 62%
  6. Spain 61%
  7. Austria 55%
  8. EU average 53%
  9. Italy 52%
  10. OECD average 52%
  11. Germany 50%
  12. Belgium 49%
  13. Australia 39%
  14. Portugal 39%
  15. Canada 39%
  16. USA 23%
  17. Iceland 13%

The latest Care report does not appear to be online (but previous reports have been posted here) but this is what the authors of the 2009 edition, Don Draper and Leonard Beighton, wrote:

"After taking allowances and benefits into account, the share of income absorbed by taxes has doubled for the average wage-earner with a non-working spouse and children to support. Meanwhile, the tax rate on a single person with the same earnings, but with no family responsibilities, has increased by less than one tenth. The latest OECD figures show that one-earner married couples with children now pay about a third more tax that they would in most other OECD countries. It is difficult to see any argument for penalising this type of family...

Kenneth Clarke, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, famously called the married couples tax allowance ʻsomething of an anomalyʼ. Those who question the wisdom or fairness of what has happened are dismissed as reactionaries seeking to turn the clock back to a mythical golden age. To accept their proposals, it is claimed, would put Britain out on a limb and cut off from the common practice of other economically developed countries. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the authors of this paper show, it is modern Britain that is now the exception. The vast majority of developed countries have tax systems that acknowledge family responsibilities towards children and also dependent adults. Many of them also have special tax arrangements for married couples. In some cases, these arrangements are also available for same-sex or mixed-sex couples living in registered partnerships."

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.

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.