Stormont must provide answers to severe social problems…

The Centre for Social Justice, Iain Duncan Smith’s smart new social policy think tank, have an impressive report (Breakthrough NI CSJ) out today… They are pouring it into something of a policy vacuum since the push you, pull me OFMdFM have still to decide on a common anti poverty policy.  CSJ may be seeking to fill a major policy gap:

The News Letter have bullet pointed some of its main findings:

Key findings the CSJ claimed highlighted the extent of social breakdown in Northern Ireland included:

The highest level of economic inactivity in the UK;

  • Unemployment which has more than doubled in the last two years;
  • More than half of those claiming
  • income support have done so for more than five years;
  • One in five households was a single parent family;
  • Three in four single parent families lived in poverty – 63,000 children;
  • Widespread mental illness, with nearly 50,000 men and women in Northern Ireland out of work because of mental and behavioural disorders;
  • More than one in ten 35 to 64-year-olds on anti-depressants;
  • 30,000 people using cannabis every month;
  • Rate of cannabis use up 50 per cent from 2002 to 2006;
  • Drug-related deaths up 100-fold in the last
  • 40 years;
  • Among 18 to 29-year-olds, 72 per cent of men and 57 per cent of women binge-drink at least once a week
  • Divorce rate more than five times the level of 40 years ago.

And from the Independent’s PA report, is this extract:

“The political system in Northern Ireland, primarily concerned with the necessity of delivering political stability, must begin to provide answers to the severe social problems outlined here, with the aim of reversing intergenerational social breakdown,” it stated.

“Although the hallmarks of conflict remain important factors in social breakdown in Northern Ireland, many people face issues entirely in common with social problems across the UK as a whole.”

Interestingly, ‘social justice’ is a concept first popularised by the Catholic Church. It will be interesting to see what purchase a bright shiny report littered with genuine social data has in a space notably short of non civil service generated ideas…

  • jtwo

    Impressive? Surely those ‘main findings’ are all in the public domain and have been for ages making this a glorified cuttings job?

  • fin

    are these “the social and economic reasons” oft touted by unionism as to why NI should remain in the UK?

    would be very interested to see how these stats compare to the rest of the island and GB regions

  • The Raven

    Yes, but aren’t you at all shocked when they are lined up one after the other, like people at a dole queue?

    Doesn’t it just underline the problems in this region which haven’t been tackled, while considerable money and resources are vired into public enquiries, planning appeals commissions, tendering mess ups, parades legislation, ensuring the divine right of succession for the DUP and Sinn Fein, 27 years of legal tussle over medical malpractice cases, and everything else which makes a headline on Slugger?

    Doesn’t it underline how it just “doesn’t work” here? In fact, how it just doesn’t seem to work anywhere in the UK, as “many people face issues entirely in common with social problems across the UK as a whole”?

    Doesn’t it just testify to the fact that the parties and subsequently, individuals that are voted in here time and time again are not fit for purpose? And that the people we hire in our public sector are similarly unable to grasp the size and scale of the social problems here?

    Some of these problems need a firm hand; some less so. Some are throwbacks to the past; some just reflect “the times that are in it.” What they all do is underline that the one thing the Assembly has failed to do, is provide the leadership needed to tackle any of them. There’s not one minister under any portfolio who escapes blame here.

  • Im inclined to think it doesn’t matter who gets in there and cleans it up, someone must!

    Some Assembly! Fiddles and Rome burning isn’t the half of it. disgraceful! People obviously feel they have no hope. It is the job of politicians to provide opportunity.

  • interested

    fin
    both parts of Ireland and UK are, and have been, signed up to common policies in European Union for some time.
    the money has been coming but doesnt appear to have desired effect.

  • Alan

    Reading the recommendations makes rather frustrating reading.

    While the detail of “social injustice” is clear. The recommendations don’t tackle the issues themselves. Where issues like educational underachievement are mentioned, there are recommendations such as the promotion of healthy family relationships.

    And it is all couched in terms of minimalising the state – talking of unemployment, one of the key recommendations is ” an increase in affordability to the state in the medium / long term .”

    It is a case of thank you for showing us what we already knew – but tackling it needs flesh on these meagre policy bones.

  • Pigeon Toes

    All the quangos, special funding, charities, social enterprises etc have obviously made such an impact…

  • Johnny Boy

    While the voting public fail to take any NI politician seriously unless they have some entrenched view on the union, socioeconomic problems will be ignored. It’s exactly how the political status quo like it.

  • Mr X

    was at the event this morning, very interesting how the people of NI are so eager to be portrayed as a wounded animal in the corner. I was also interested to hear that apparently just ‘so many’ local benefit claimants are doing so as a direct result of the troubles!

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m not inclined to put a great deal of store in the musings of a right-wing think tank about what they think social justice is. Let’s have a look at some of the points. Why is increased use of cannabis a social justice issue ? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating regular joint-smoking, but seeing this point mentioned here reminds me of the right’s obsession with the supposedly harmful effects of certain mildly effective substances. I note that tobacco and alcohol don’t get mentioned. It’d be a shame of someone mentioned the tobacco connections of at least one senior Tory.

    Why is the high rate of divorce as a social justice issue ? It is in fact a far more complex issue than that; divorce rates are high among middle class professionals (the less well off generally don’t get married in the first place, probably – quite justifiably – because it’s so damn expensive these days). And what’s this about single parent families “living in poverty”, what does that mean ?

    We do have severe problems here with dependency on the state, welfarism and so on. The part about the high rate of mental illness has been true for decades, it’s not a new phenomenon, and is probably at least in part due to the pressure cooker of life in the Troubles. These problems need to be tackled but this report, going by the points above, doesn’t look like anything other than the usual rightwing rant-fest.

  • Secret Squirrel

    I’m not advocating regular joint-smoking, but seeing this point mentioned here reminds me of the right’s obsession with the supposedly harmful effects of certain mildly effective substances.

    I was going to have a wee rant of my own earlier, on exactly the same point but thought better of it.

  • Fingal Cave

    I was at the event as well and would agree with Mr X that I was also surprised by the general argument for dispensation from the harshest of cuts was because we have suffered so much psychologically from the Troubles, our fragile minds (or otherwise, economy) couldn’t take it. I was once grazed by a plastic bullet when I was younger – does that mean I can keep my public service pension please? Of course, we have all experienced more or less acute levels of ‘trauma’ but doesn’t this feed into the view that NI Inc is seen by local and national politicians as a truculent child that refuses to be weaned off its entitlement dummy or it will throw its ‘dissident’ rattle out of the pram?
    Owen Paterson again made a startling comment I have heard him say before that doesn’t seem to get any media attention – he said that the last forty years of Government policy in Northern Ireland on socio-economic issues has been a failure. Forty years of failure. In the Q and A that followed there was little mature comment that noticed that there was a new, unequivocal, UK sourced benefits agenda on the table and it is going to happen – especially on the basis that this government thinks what has been happening here in terms of the exchequer for 4 decades has been the wrong model. To prove this point, The CSJ was saying loudly and clearly if NI thinks it has dependency problems – maybe you should take a Ryanair trip before October to intercity London – then you’ll get to see some real problems. By some peoples reaction to that perspective you’d think the Conservatives were trying to ‘mug a hoodie’ for his dole money rather than hug him!

    Local charity/voluntary/government reps still don’t seem to get it – the message from Whitehall is there is no more money and just because you can’t remember how you operated in the lean times doesn’t mean we are going to take our foot off the ‘cut and slash’ accelerator. I think the p.s to this message is that no South East marginal MP is going to see themselves and the Con’s working arrangement with the Lib Dems go down the Thames just because the money needed for a local school or hospital build in the home counties has to be spent on DLA for Belfast.

    Let me finish by commenting that I think it is worth saying that again (as with similar events) there is mighty talk about the ability of the private sector to plug anticipated service provision gaps without acknowledging the logjam/minefield/quagmire of vested interests all round that make some innovative approaches to public sector style provision near impossible to get off the ground. Seriously, if Ni Inc is going to get through the next challenging decade, we have to start taking some ownership over our own problems and start pestering the UK government for more flexibility in the rule-book when it comes to social mobility, entreneurship and wealth creation rather than jabbering for different economic medicine just because it is so sour to our delicate sectarian palettes.

  • Frusatrated Democrat

    It is interesting to see the Alliance call it a right wing think tank when it has contributors across the social spectrum and Magaret Ritchie and Alban Magennis who attended are hardly right wing, nor were the many social groups who attended.

    To nit pick instead of looking at the overall problems is a typical knee jerk reaction, maybe that is because one of its authors is Ian Parsley an ex Alliance member who has done a superb job on this report and must be congratulated. He will make an excellent MLA in North Down.

    The whole report is available for download on the Centre for Social Justice website at the link above and will provide those intetrested in social change in Northern Ireland with much food for thought.

  • Procrasnow

    There is no poverty in Northern Ireland, cannot possibly be.

    You want to see what Poverty is go to sub-Saharan Africa, South America, South East Asia, India, Bangladesh.

    There is no poverty here

  • Comrade Stalin

    Do tell.

    I thought it was even more interesting that alcohol didn’t get mentioned given Tony Blair’s interesting revelations about using booze as a prop.

  • Secret Squirrel

    Well, for a start Comrade, my rant was going to question why the ‘fact’ that 30,000 people using cannabis every month and that the rate of cannabis use was apparently up 50 per cent from 2002 to 2006 is followed directly by the statement that drug-related deaths are up 100-fold in the last 40 years.
    I don’t believe it’s physically possible to overdose on cannabis so I think it’s fair to say that none of the drug related deaths referred to could be attributed to cannabis.

    And how do they determine the rate of increase of this cannabis use anyhow ?
    Users being more honest in disclosing the fact, or the cops being more successful in their interception of these substances in transit ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I stand corrected. There is a whole chapter in their report about alcohol.

  • Nunoftheabove

    How do you measure social breakdown (and indeed an ideal state of ‘not broken-ness’ ?), still less how do you connect, causally, this to net economic impact ?

    ■Unemployment which has more than doubled in the last two years – how many through non-voluntary redundancy ?

    ■More than half of those claiming income support have done so for more than five years – reasonable verifiable attempts to find work per capita ?

    ■One in five households was a single parent family; – so ?

    ■Widespread mental illness, with nearly 50,000 men and women in Northern Ireland out of work because of mental and behavioural disorders; – very strongly distrust this and its – in any event – actual impact on so-called economic activity. A dispropionate number of private sector CEOs internationally are in effect certifiable and are highly ecomomically active.

    ■More than one in ten 35 to 64-year-olds on anti-depressants; again, what measure of economic activity is this really (and shame on the doctors/salesmen) – also, evidence of the positive economic activity on the part of the pharm companies ?

    ■30,000 people using cannabis every month; 30,000 different people ? Even so, in what respect is this any kind of measure of economic activity ?

    ■Rate of cannabis use up 50 per cent from 2002 to 2006; as measured how exactly and with what degree of dependability to three decimal points and the impact of this in any event to per capita contribution?

    ■Drug-related deaths up 100-fold in the last 40 years; define drugs and how has the method of measurement changed in 40 years ?

    ■Among 18 to 29-year-olds, 72 per cent of men and 57 per cent of women binge-drink at least once a wee – as defined how – 10-15 units per week ? (get with the program, ladies !) and what is the net negative in economic terms of this please ?

    ■Divorce rate more than five times the level of 40 years ago. And a bloody good thing too – do catch up, taigs !

  • Mr X

    out of interest what do you folks make of the associated ‘work’ programme Iain DS, bearing in mind the following;
    if you are claiming dla / incapacity you will defined as capable for some work or not at all, those who are deemed capable will be ‘supported’ into employment, should they not take up the work they will loose benefits, same as those on jsa etc. Please no’where are the jobs comments’ as right now on jobcentreonline I can see of 1500.

  • The Raven

    My my, from reading some of the responses, I’d wonder if Mrs Thatcher ever relinquished the throne.

    “More than half of those claiming income support have done so for more than five years – reasonable verifiable attempts to find work per capita?” And wha’? Does it make it any more acceptable?

    “More than one in ten 35 to 64-year-olds on anti-depressants; again, what measure of economic activity is this really (and shame on the doctors/salesmen) ” And why are they prescribing it/selling it? Might it be because seeing any sort of headshrink/mental health professional requires a waiting list of…let’s guess..one to three years? Is it any wonder the doctors prescribe it? Yet another failure to do anything resembling a bit of joined up work.

    Setting the rights and wrongs of it all aside, and taking pinches of salt and leaps of faith in equal amounts – are we saying that this list, even if you reduce numbers by 20% or whatever, is acceptable? Are we saying that in terms of business support, healthcare, infrastructure provision, training, education and so on, that the Assembly has done a bang-up job? That it is truly tacking causes and effects of social deprivation and division?

    Pippakin above wrote, “it is the job of politicians to provide opportunity.” Yes. Quite.

  • The Raven

    Indeed. With only 57,000 claimants in Northern Ireland at the moment, this could be an interesting televisual opportunity – like a Big Brother for jobs.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Meanwhile we have to import labour to man our basic manufacturing industries.

    The only response I heard from a local politician was Alex Attwood waffling on about protecting the ‘most vulnerable’. I suspect he means by that everyone who is claiming a benefit especially if they belong to the ‘nationalist community’ and are actual or potential SDLP voters.
    That’s the big problem here: unlike in England the lumpenproles tend to vote and they’re not going to reward any politician who disturbs their current way of life.

  • Comrade Stalin

    That’s the big problem here: unlike in England the lumpenproles tend to vote and they’re not going to reward any politician who disturbs their current way of life.

    Just about any government decision disturbs the way of life for one group or another.

  • interested

    taken along with the article on selling off northern ireland it sounds to me this is a further preparation for something-like a massive cut in financial transfers.
    Where is the policy response from the Assembly?

  • Reader

    Nunoftheabove: as defined how – 10-15 units per week ? (get with the program, ladies !) and what is the net negative in economic terms of this please ?
    Well spotted. At least it shows that very large numbers of young people have a substantial discretionary budget and are therefore prosperous and full of economic confidence. And I’m sure that a bit of drunken violence and vandalism is more than offset by the famous therapeutic effects of alcohol which someone will be along to point out real soon now.
    I hope I wasn’t *too* convincing, there…

  • joeCanuck

    Give them a break. They work very hard and they don’t have the time to deal with issues that affect people’s well being. They have to concentrate on things like the right to publicly assemble.

  • “The Centre for Social Justice, Iain Duncan Smith’s smart new social policy think tank, have an impressive report (Breakthrough NI CSJ) out today…”

    Mick F

    All I can say is you are easily impressed, unbelievable tosh more like.

    Iain Duncan Smith reminds me of those 19th Century do gooders who always managed to make a bad situation worse, and were prepared to believe every low and stupid rumour about the working classes which circulated amongst the aristocracy, landed gentry, and priesthood. Whilst spending their down time buggering their footman and rogering their best friends wives.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Reader

    Fair dues; so by contrast a more net healthy (economically speaking) would be 18-25 year ols staying indoors saving and the pubs and restaurant businesss folding ? Think this think tank is taking the pish as, to be fair, I was. Sorta.

  • aquifer

    Too many poor kids cannot read or write and get drunk or pregnant and have kids who do not work and stay poor.

    Pretty sad stuff.

    And if we maintain welfare parity with GB every blessed child will soon get poorer.

    Never mind, even if the linen mills that brought the people there are long departed, the Catholic church continues to run one of the most productive soul factories in Europe.

  • interested

    even if you have links to the lovely Glencoppagagh in the Sperrins and the great sound of that name
    to which manufacturing industries do you refer and the way of life is about to be disturbed in any case-in a big way

  • Reader

    Nunoftheabove: Fair dues; so by contrast a more net healthy (economically speaking) would be 18-25 year ols staying indoors saving and the pubs and restaurant businesss folding ?
    Or maybe they could do a bit of DIY instead? This touches on the notion of whether it is better in the current crisis to save or spend. The cynical advice is to save, and hope that everyone else spends. But I doubt even that. Spending might re-inflate the bubble, providing a good year and a bad decade.
    So I really don’t think that a consumer bubble based on buying – mostly imported – goods on credit is good for us. If I ran a restaurant or a boutique I might not feel the same way.

  • An eight year old boy found a pipe bomb and carried it into his class!

    I hope this is not an example of what some people think of the children of the north. It goes to show how difficult and intractable some of the social problems are, and why the Assembly is so important.

    Whoever did this needs to issue an abject apology. If it was any sort of organised gang, the gang leaders need to ensure the creatures responsible give themselves up to the police.