‘ … these riots were not about poverty: that insults the millions of people who, whatever the hardship, would never dream of making others suffer like this’
(David Cameron, 15 August 2011)
‘There is an acceptance that the poor will always be with us. I spend my entire life saying that’s not how it has to be’
(Louise Casey, quoted in The Sunday Times, 17 August 2014)
David Cameron was adamant that the riots of 2011 had nothing whatsoever to do with poverty. They were about ‘behaviour’ and a ‘twisted moral code’. When he launched the Troubled Families Programme a couple of months later, the word ‘poverty’ got one mention and it wasn’t in relation to the aims of the programme.
But then, the person who Cameron appointed to lead the Troubled Families Programme last month proclaimed that she spends ‘her entire life’ telling people that we don’t have to accept that ‘the poor will always be with us’. One doesn’t need to look far for evidence of this commitment to anti-poverty work.
Admittedly, Casey has never actually worked for an anti-poverty organisation or in an anti-poverty role. Yes, she has worked for Shelter and in a homelessness role, but most people living in poverty aren’t homeless are they? She’s also worked as the ASBO tsar but then most people living in poverty aren’t anti-social either. But these are mere details. When you look at her record since taking up her current post, her anti-poverty credentials ‘literally’ leap off the page at you. OK, OK, OK. So there is nothing in the criteria or the outcomes associated with the TFP that relates to poverty or income or material circumstances. Yes, ‘troubled families’ can be deemed to have had their lives ‘turned round’ without any change or improvement in their material circumstances but that’s just splitting hairs. Yes, the multiple disadvantages that included ‘low income’ and ‘material deprivation’ indicators were replaced with behavioural ones but that was probably *really* against her wishes. I mean, take the Listening to Troubled Families report that she wrote. Poverty was all over that report wasn’t it? Eh? Oh. It wasn’t mentioned once you say? And nor was ‘income’, ‘deprivation’, ‘worklessness’ or ‘unemployment’? Hmmm…
What about the recent announcements about Understanding Troubled Families and the expansion of the TF programme? I appreciate that the Understanding report didn’t once include the word poverty either, but the data behind the report was dripping with indicators around the very obvious ‘problems’ of income and deprivation wasn’t it? Wasn’t it? It wasn’t was it? But, but, but, the expansion of the programme to include new criteria must change all of this? Unfortunately not, as poverty isn’t included as a criteria in Phase 2 of the programme…
Given the strategically agnotological approach to poverty and its impact on people’s lives in the Troubled Families Programme, it is interesting that Casey believes her ‘entire life’ is spent trying to do something about poverty. Although, of course, Casey didn’t talk about poverty – she talked about ‘the poor’ which is something entirely different…..
In summary, it is difficult to find any evidence that Louise Casey spends – or has spent – any of her working life doing anything about poverty. In fact, one could mount a fairly strong argument that her current efforts in paid employment have actually ignored or, even worse, concealed, the impact that poverty can have on people’s lives and have generally been very unhelpful to people living on low incomes in the way that she has talked about many of them.
In which case, one must conclude that, like legendary DJs Smashie and Nicey, Casey generally doesn’t like to talk about her good voluntary work for charidee……