Monday, March 9, 2009

Dear gov.uk, you asked for my opinions...

... on your latest shenanigans, and I will gladly share them with you, but please don't expect them to always be polite. (I hope other people will answer with better grace than me!)

The consultation about Ending Child Poverty: making it happen, about which I blogged here closes in two days, so I'm devoting most of my blog session today to my answers to the questions, as follows:

1 a) Does the 2020 vision capture the key areas where action is required to ensure the greatest impact on reducing child poverty?

No. Thanks to Income Support, there currently is no real child poverty in this country - or technically shouldn't be - but you're phasing that out now, I understand, so there probably soon will be. The action required to prevent the problem would therefore be to reverse your plan to phase out Income Support. It is a bread line benefit which does its job very well and keeps people out of poverty, as it was always intended to.

1 b) Are the building blocks the right ones to make progress towards 2020, including for those groups at particular risk of poverty?

No. Depriving children of their mothers by coercing the mothers into the workplace and the children into Surestart centres isn't good for anyone except government and big business. It certainly isn't good for children and won't make families any better off, because most will end up working for low wages.

2 a) Should the measure of success be expanded beyond relative income, combined low income and material deprivation, and persistent low income to also include absolute low income?

Yes. It should *only* include absolute low income. Those other measures are just political devices which mean nothing to the rest of us. People should be free to make the choice to live with only the bare essentials, if they want to. The only reason to take this choice out of people's hands by threatening to remove their children is to put more money in the hands of the corporations and more power in the hands of government. Trying to force the whole population climb up the same greasy pole is not good government. It does not represent the people.

2 b) Will proposals to publish a strategy, informed by an expert child poverty commission, and proposals to monitor and report on progress, drive the action needed?

No, of course it won't. Instead you need to publish a strategy informed by ordinary people, most of whom would probably be happy with low taxes, less regulation and a basic breadline benefit for all who require it. The kinds of strategies you're planning make you look like psychopathic control freaks, and we're not fooled by your "It's for the kiddies" smokescreen. It's not for them at all, is it?

3 a) What are the main constraints to tackling child poverty at the local level?

The plan to phase out Income Support, which will cause no end of problems for families. But at least it will create more jobs for the boys, so who cares?

3 b) How can central Government support local authorities in overcoming these constraints?

By reversing the plan to phase out Income Support. It could also relax planning controls to bring down the price of property, and fit every house with solar panels and wind turbines to cut down on fuel bills. If it was serious about reducing poverty, it would do these things. But it isn't, so it doesn't.

4 Is the existing local performance framework sufficient to ensure that all local areas take the necessary action to tackle child poverty?

Yes. For goodness's sake, please don't make it any worse than it already is.

5 a) Should a duty on local authorities and delivery partners (options one and/or two in paras 2.24 and 2.25) be introduced, in addition to the existing local performance framework to incentivise more authorities to prioritise action to tackle child poverty?

No! Just do the things I've said above. You can leave local authorities out of it, although they used to do a better job of managing the social housing stock than the housing associations now do.

6 a) Should the Government consider requiring all local authorities to set a specific child poverty target or a target from a ‘basket of indicators’ (option three in para 2.26)?

No. It's ridiculous. You're planning to penalise families who have done nothing wrong and have enough troubles already, and to use local authorities as a stick to beat them with instead of doing the job directly yourselves doesn't make it any less reprehensible.

7 Are there other, more effective steps that could be taken, within or outside new legislation, to incentivise more local authorities to prioritise taking action on child poverty?

No, just make the money available for people in the form of Income Support, please. Or you could call it tax credits but take out the compulsion to work. We need a laissez-faire government and a fair sharing out of resources, not the precise opposite which is what we've currently got.

8 Please let us have your views on responding to this consultation (e.g. the number and type of questions, was it easy to find, understand, complete etc)

It was fine thanks. If you take my views into account, I'll be even more impressed. (But I won't hold my breath.)