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Friday, February 08, 2008

The Soundness Of The Labour Right

Real quotes from Caroline Flint's speech to the Fabian Society - proving that the Labour right has sound, sensible ideas and everyone else on the planet is several sandwiches short of a picnic:

"It's a real pleasure to make my first major speech as Housing and Planning Minister at such an important event. An early History of the Fabian Society by Edward Pease says that "conferences... are most useful for promoting moderate reforms which have already made themselves acceptable...". I hope we are going to be a little bit more radical in expressing our views and ideas on social housing - and how it can act as a springboard for opportunity. So today, we won't be discussing "moderate reforms which have already made themselves acceptable". Housing in Britain doesn't require moderate reform. It needs urgent attention and swift action.

We have to make sure that social housing really delivers what tenants need. We all agree that social housing must mean more than handing over the keys and leaving tenants to get on with it for the next thirty years. But what should be the rest of the package that comes along with that new set of keys? I think it should be a package which promotes progress and prosperity.

As Minister for work, I could see a worsening picture of increasing levels of worklessness among social tenants - and it's just not good enough. Today, more than half of all households in the social sector have no working aged adults employed. This has been called a 'collapse' in employment rates among social tenants. And it's a major contributor to inter-generational poverty - with some children growing up without ever seeing an adult get up and off to work in the morning. We need to think radically and start a national debate about how we can reverse this trend, to build strong, diverse estates.

I want to make sure that when a family is looking for housing, they aren't just given a stack of forms and a place on a waiting list. Each family should be able to have a realistic and in-depth conversation, working out together what the best options for the long term are. Whether social housing is really the right answer to their housing needs. What help or support they might need to find training, childcare, or work. We will be trialling this more comprehensive advice through the housing options service. This will offer people much greater choice. Not only between social homes, but perhaps through other options in the private rented sector or in low cost home ownership. And it will make the right links between housing advice and employment advice. If we are giving tenants a stronger voice, greater support and a better service, then it's only right that we have higher expectations in return. Social housing should be based around the principle of something for something.

Far too many new social tenants under 25 are unemployed. Imagine three different young people who come to the council searching for a home. A teenager with a history of crime, turfed out by his parents and sleeping on the streets. A nineteen year old girl, pregnant and unemployed, lacking any support from her family or friends. A young man in his early twenties, who left school without any qualifications to drift through a series of short-term jobs. We have become much better at finding these young people a home. But that's not enough. While we might have solved their immediate housing needs, we haven't even begun to get to the root of their real problems. It's a secure home, yes, but not the means to a fulfilling future nor the means to strive towards greater independence. It is 'something for something' that they are offered. I believe that this could also work effectively elsewhere.

I want to finish by reiterating some of the questions I've asked, and which I've been thinking about over my first week. Should existing tenants who need to move for work be given higher priority on waiting lists? Could new tenants who can work sign commitment contracts when getting a tenancy, agreeing to actively seek work alongside better support? How can we expand existing schemes to offer those tenants in work who can't afford to buy their own home more opportunity to buy a share? I hope you'll come to this debate with an open mind. Thinking about how we can empower people, but also how people can take greater responsibility for their own lives. This may be a provocative debate. But sometimes I think you need that approach to start coming up with the right solutions. And I look forward to beginning that debate right now. Thank you very much."

A sensible argument to get the workshy back into employment or out of social housing, so we can knock a lot of it down and build yuppie flats with gymnasia. Those who oppose this logic are three stops East of Plaistow.


Wesley Trainspotter said...

three stops East of Plaistow.

Surely, that's Barking?

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