August 9, 2007
A radical passion
We need a more fine-grained approach to tackle multiple deprivation at the micro-level. Governments lack the flexibility, the combination of moral toughness and sensitivity to people’s personal circumstances, that is necessary to reach the most difficult cases. The answer lies in communities themselves.
A radical passion
Communities, rather than the state, are best equipped to effectively tackle social deprivation
The last generation has seen a steady rise in living standards for the many and a relative fall in living standards for the few. Helping these “few” to catch up with the rest of society should be the most urgent political priority for the British government.
These are the people Ann Widdecombe once memorably called “the forgotten decent” – trapped in deprivation through no immediate fault of their own, unable to climb into the middle classes because of a series of barriers that completely block the route.
How do we dismantle these barriers? There are three important insights that should guide us. The first is that addiction, generational welfare dependency, debt, educational failure and family breakdown are strongly concentrated in very small neighbourhoods. Too often we in
We need a more fine-grained approach to tackle multiple deprivation at the micro-level.
The second important insight is that these are social problems – and they require social as well as statutory solutions. This is something Tony Blair appeared to concede in a remark about the Sure Start system for children’s services last year: “The hard-to-reach families, the ones who are shut out of the system … they are not going to come to places like Sure Start.” This is a feature of almost all large central government programmes. They lack the flexibility, the combination of moral toughness and sensitivity to people’s personal circumstances, that is necessary to reach the most difficult cases.
The answer lies in communities themselves, not in well-meaning schemes directed from
The social enterprise is the great institutional innovation of our times. At the moment, however, we are not making nearly enough use of the potential of the voluntary sector. Only about 5% of public services are provided by independent operators, who report a range of financial and bureaucratic obstacles to effective contracting with government.
The third insight to guide us is that the smaller, locally based voluntary organisations, which are often the most effective at combating entrenched deprivation, are losing out to the large national operations. The government is funnelling the majority of its third sector funding to the big players, which in turn allows them to generate the publicity which ensures they also receive the lion’s share of voluntary giving as well.
Today we are publishing a report on what I call social enterprise zones (SEZs). It develops these three insights into policy. Modelled on the enterprise zones that helped revive the economies of our inner cities in the 1980s, SEZs will give councils the power to create a radically deregulated environment for social enterprises and voluntary bodies.
The report proposes tax relief in SEZs and the creation of a community bank, a sort of central bank for the social enterprise sector. These are the types of idea which could help ensure that, in the next generation, we will see rising living standards for all.
· David Cameron is the leader of the Conservative party firstname.lastname@example.org