Tories change tack on drugs and parenting

Several new policy initiatives affecting children and their
families emerged from the Conservative Party annual conference in
October, with the emphasis on charitable rather than state

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin proposed a new approach to
the problem of hard drugs, identifying children and young people
who are on heroin or cocaine and giving them the choice of
treatment or prosecution. He said that the parents of “messed up”
four and five year olds needed help to be better parents based on
“sound common sense”.

He said programmes run by Stephen Scott and Carole Sutton, in
London and Leicester, had been “spectacularly successful”.

“We need to make these programmes available nationwide – not
through an army of social workers, but through voluntary and
charitable organisations.” And he pointed to the work of the
charity, the Centre for Adolescent Rehabilitation, in helping young
offenders straight from custody and reducing reconviction rates. It
involved “not just a period of incarceration but a long period
beyond of active rehabilitation and reform,” Letwin said.

Shadow work and pensions secretary David Willetts pledged to end
the Conservative Party’s war on lone parents.

But like Letwin, Willetts was anxious to promote the role of the
voluntary sector in taking over some public service provision.
Charities were the “real heroes”, he said.

Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said the party, if elected, would
introduce a voluntary sector bill to break down bureaucratic
constraints on the sector.

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