Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Tuesday 11th November 6.30pm

Localis Think Tank
The subject for discussion at this event was “How can local authorities tackle the issues associated with ‘at risk’ families in deprived areas“.
There was a panel of speakers from a number of organizations including Westminster Council, My Generation, The Centre for Social Justice, Action for Children and Localis.Westminster Council was launching a new initiative which provided a targeted and holistic approach to dealing with ‘at risk’ families. It involved intensive work with especially problematic families drawing on all council departments to help solve the issues. The involvement could last for years rather than months. The aim appeared to be to prevent the downward spiral of anti-social and dysfunctional behaviour forming the pattern for future generations. The lack of any family member being in employment for generations was cited as an example of this self-perpetuating problem.

The programme involved investing a large sum of money per family, but this was seen as a good preventative measure which could save much greater amounts in future as the family was helped away from dependence on benefits and away from criminal activities which are also a drain on public resources.

There was an interesting question and answer session following on from the presentations by the panel members. The strongest message for me was from the My Generation speaker who highlighted that we must stop our approach to these families as a problem to be solved. We must put aside judgemental attitudes and work as partners with the family members.

It was also pointed out that a ‘professional attitude’ can be seen as patronizing and will instantly alienate anyone who is trying to intervene from the people they are attempting to help.

I asked a question about the effect of social housing in perpetuating the problems. My point was that the practice of placing all the ‘problem’ families together in one place both drags down an area and also has the effect of making anti-social & dysfunctional behaviour appear the norm. It is a fact that peer pressure is the biggest influence on the way people act in society.
The responses to my query varied. Some panelists felt that poorly designed social housing encouraged crime. Others felt that the social housing system was too bureaucratic and encouraged dependency.
Again it was the My Generation panelist who appreciated the gist of my point and stated his opinion that we should not build these great estates for social housing but instead scatter social housing throughout neighbourhoods, thereby integrating families into our society.

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December 20, 2008 - Posted by | Meeting

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