Danny Kruger provides the latest instalment of our series looking at the conveyor belt to crime. Danny who runs a charity for ex-offenders, Only Connect, was a speechwriter for David Cameron.
To my mind the most important development in social policy in recent times wasn’t any innovation in public services. It was the re-discovery (in the words of the title of Sue Gerhardt’s groundbreaking book) of ‘Why Love Matters’. Gerhardt and others, such as Felicity de Zulueta of The Maudsley Hospital and Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids Company, have demonstrated how our early experience of relationships literally shapes our brain, and so conditions the personality we present to the world.
Thus modern neuroscience has brought us back to some very traditional truths – not least the importance of ‘breeding’, a word now lost to polite conversation – and presents a real challenge to the hegemony of liberal social policy.
Liberals of left and right, determined to enforce their respective fetishes – equality or freedom – by intellectual brute force, simply insist that every generation begins the world anew. Circumstances and relationships, the contingent factors which make an idea good or bad in practice, have no place in this worldview. But we are becoming forced, by events and by science, to face facts again.
The recent riots were fomented and largely carried out by boys and young men without adequate role models or social structures. In gangs they form their own, destructive families with their own, malign approximations of fatherhood and brotherhood. They have suffered a deficit of healthy relationships and they are wreaking their revenge on themselves and the rest of us.
We need a conscious and deliberate effort to create, artificially, a positive alternative to the negative social networks future rioters and looters are growing up in. And because we have to start somewhere, and we should crack the toughest nut first, I propose a new ‘children of offenders strategy’.
65% of boys with a convicted parent go on to become criminals. That’s the same as the national re-offending rate for ex-prisoners, and equally shows that crime has its own momentum. To stop that momentum we need to intervene directly in the lives of offenders’ children.
So long as both parents agree, they and their child should receive intensive support and advice at every step, possibly delivered by a faith-based, voluntary or community group but closely aligned with the work of the statutory sector. Local authorities should be free to implement the strategy as they see fit, but the unifying principle should be emphasis on the social networks young people grow up in – and a determined attempt to steer them into networks that teach them to believe in British society, and give them opportunities to participate in it.
Financed through a social impact bond – an independent investor provides the upfront cash, carries the risk of failure and is repaid by government in the event of success – this policy would cost the taxpayer nothing to implement and save huge sums in the long run.
Conservatives believe in preserving positive inheritances – literally, in the case of inheritance tax, by allowing people to pass on the fruits of their enterprise to their children. We should be equally concerned to dam up bad inheritances, blocking the passage down the generations of the attitudes and values that curse a child’s life, and through him, curse society as a whole.
> Over the weekend we examined the role of education in ending the conveyor belt to crime and the link between welfare dependency and crime.