Ground-breaking studies regularly chart the terrain of deprivation
and social need and make invaluable long-term policy
recommendations. The result? More often than not, they are shunted
into the sidings or only partially implemented a decade down the
The 1974 Finer Committee on Single Parents, for instance, produced
over 200 recommendations almost all of them ignored. Six years
later, Sir Douglas Black’s report on the state of the nation’s
health and the growing gap between the rich and poor was tragically
greeted with government inertia.
This week, David Darton, Donald Hirsch and Jason Strelitz publish
Tackling Disadvantage: A 20-Year Enterprise. It is a
powerful piece of work intended to trigger a debate on what ought
be done over the next two decades in six key areas, among them
education, family poverty and long-term care.
Its thrust is to challenge the government’s present preoccupation
with middle England and prioritise the needs of the most deprived
boldly and unequivocally. For instance, it recommends greater
investment in schools in disadvantaged areas; more generous
financial support for those who have good reason not to be in paid
work; and some system, such as a national care insurance scheme –
already rejected by government – that will give poor people access
to good quality long-term care.
At present, 70 per cent of care for older people is on an unpaid
basis. In 20 years, however, by the time the post-war baby boomer
generation are ageing, that source of support may be hugely
diminished. Families will be more fragmented; sons and daughters
may themselves be older parents of young children while the duty to
care may have been much diluted.
A report last week confirmed that more than 80 per cent of patients
in old people’s homes are being administered powerful
tranquillisers they do not need. Diverse and flexible support for
older people cannot and should not be left to the private sector.
Tackling Disadvantage: A 20-Year Enterprise is rich in
imaginative proposals: a strong catalyst for change. But what’s the
betting that in 2023, when this generation of ministers are drawing
their lavish pensions, the rest of us will be wondering whatever
happened to so many of its excellent ideas?
Tackling Disadvantage: A 20-Year Enterprise is