Monday, 11 January 2010

Cameron on Family

Coming back from work today I expected to hear of a speech by Cameron on the family. All I got from the 24/7 news channels was one line about keeping Sure Start, sandwiched between Clegg withdrawing policy commitments and Gordon Brown promising - yet again - to be nicer to his PLP.
Reading the full speech, it really is a thorough, thoughtful and comprehensive piece. If you’re looking for a narrative on the Conservative themes of family, responsibility and mending our broken society, Cameron clearly explains it here. From individual responsibility, through early years intervention and community participation, right through to the fundamental importance of good education in building social responsibility. Cameron’s point is that ”…If you do the responsible thing, you will be rewarded. If you don’t, you won’t.”
He begins describing “a whole host of severe social problems… caused in part from the wrong personal choices” suggesting “…that the state continue(s) to treat the symptoms of these problems instead of the root causes” and asking “…how do we help build responsible character in people?”
Cameron begins by looking at the crucial influence of family on the value of personal responsibility which, he says provides “…the ability to stick at your commitments. The power to bounce back from bad times. The capacity to identify with other people.” He continues “…we all know what good parenting looks like... It means setting boundaries as well as providing love and offering security. These are things that help foster commitment, resilience, empathy – and everything else we associate with responsibility.”
Cameron then outlines findings from Demos research showing that “…the differences in child outcomes between a child born in poverty and a child born in wealth are no longer statistically significant when both have been raised by “confident and able” parents… what matters most to a child’s life chances is not the wealth of their upbringing but the warmth of their parenting. If we want to give children the best chance in life – whatever background they are from – the right structures need to be in place, strong and secure families, confident and able parents, an ethic of responsibility instilled from a young age.”
A tribute to Labour MP Frank Field follows for identifying this and suggesting that the welfare state should…“openly reward good behaviour and ... be used to enhance those roles which the country values”. He continues “…the research shows that while the style of responsible (parenting)… is more likely to occur in wealthier households, children in poor households who are raised with that style of parenting do just as well”
On reversing family breakdown Cameron is at his most emphatic. “It is essential to say loudly and proudly that commitment is a core value of a responsible society and that's why we will recognise marriage, whether between a man and a woman, a woman and a woman or a man and another man, in the tax system. And yes, that is a commitment.” He goes on to outline other policy commitments: “we’ll extend the right to request flexible working to all parents with a child under eighteen… we’ll introduce Flexible Parental Leave, meaning both parents can share the responsibilities of caring for a new baby...” and “…we will increase the number of Sure Start health visitors by 4,200, giving families a much greater level of personal, professional support in the home when they need it most.”
Turning to Sure Start, Cameron commits to “…taking it back to its original purpose - early intervention, increasing its focus on those who need its help most and better involving organisations with a proven track record in parenting interventions”, whilst anchoring these changes within the three principals which lie behind all Conservative policy - decentralisation, transparency & accountability. Cameron names the type of third sector organisations which he expects to lead such intervention, Lifeline, 4Children and Homestart saying a Conservative government will “…contract them to run children’s centres and reach out to dysfunctional and disadvantaged local families. They will then be paid – at least in part - according to the results they achieve” with funding coming from the current Early Years Support Team at DCSF.
On schools Cameron expects “…disciplined, ordered classrooms, where children understand what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t… an ethos that elevates aspiration… (and) a respect for authority… a culture of mentoring… competitive sport that teaches children about team-work, training and applying yourself.” As well as “…giving head teachers the final say when it comes to excluding disruptive children.” He says “…our long-term reforms are about spreading freedom and parent-power across the state system so more schools provide the kind of education we need to help raise the kind of responsible citizens we want”.
But it is his final words on community participation that will prove the most difficult feat: “…we all have a duty to ensure that children and young people are absorbing influences that encourage responsibility. Clearly, that must begin from the very top. Government must expect responsibility from others... Our plan for National Citizen Service for Young People will be led by charities and community groups and will bring together sixteen year olds from across the country in a programme of social engagement. There they will learn what it means to be socially responsible, to serve their community, and to get on and get along with people from different backgrounds.” He finishes with a memorable quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury: “If we want to give children a chance of experiencing childhood as they should ... we have to face the demands of being adults ourselves” explaining that our “…culture of suspicion and paranoia is increasingly preventing adults from even interacting with young people. We can’t go on like this. It’s time we gave children back their childhood and get adults to behave like adults”.

Sunday, 3 January 2010


Another brilliant piece in todays Sunday Telegraph by Janet Daley. Please read and lift your spirit Mr Cameron.