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…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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