Thursday, 23 December 2010

Emma Harrison on Woman's Hour - again

Woman's Hour (Radio 4) today carried a discussion between Emma Harrison of A4e and Helen Dent of Family Action about the Family Champions project, with the excellent Jenni Murray as the questioner. Now, Family Action has been going since 1869, and Dent, like Harrison, has a CBE, so they were well matched.
Harrison, asked to explain what family champions were all about, started by saying that she had been asked to speak to "No. 10" about families who have never worked. (She later got in another plug for the closeness of her relationship with the PM.) Yes, lots of things were being done by various agencies, but it didn't add up to working with whole families.
Dent said that FA specialise in dealing with families where there are multiple and complex needs, and the priority for society was for those families to resolve their difficulties, not working. This set the tone for the differences between the tow women; both scrupulously polite, Harrison faintly praising FA once or twice, but clearly disagreeing.
Harrison asserted that families had to have a sense of purpose, and their ambition should be to be working families. Dent talked about "deeply challenging" family situations and gave an example of a family with huge problems, where it was necessary to start with small steps.
Murray put the point to Harrison - is getting a job suitable for everybody? Harrison said she didn't accept Dent's statement that working is not a goal, and gave her own example of a family she's working with where everybody else had failed but she got them volunteering in a charity shop. Murray asked what it will cost, since people will have to be employed on this. Harrison wasn't sure; she talked about using local authorities' community budgets, about £120m to start with, and this was good news for families.
Dent, asked if this was a sensible use of resources, said that the government was "muddling up" types of families; the need is to invest in intensive work to start with, and Harrison is wrong about this immediate goal of work.

So Emma Harrison is getting oodles of publicity for supposedly persuading government to fork out for a new scheme, when groups like Family Action have been doing it for years without any fanfare. I wish that this short but revealing item could be the basis of a much longer exploration of the subject.

1 comment:

  1. First off A4E is not, I repeat is not an organisation that provides social care provision to socially excluded familes. It is an agency built upon doing the government's bidding, in so far ensuring that the unemployed undertake compulsory work related activities and it they do not they will lose welfare rights entitlement. In essence they are the state's bully with a face. The government would never deliver these 'services' direct to the Public, as they would be more likely to rebel through direct action.

    Organisations like Family Action follow the principle of keeping a low profile and and keeping service users confidence by workign with families on the basis of informed choise and free will, not cooercion.

    When an organisation pursues Profit and seeks publicity by talking about familes in dire situations, I would consider this exploitation.

    Let us not forget that the feminist definition of work included work done at home, which A4E be helping familes claim all the benefits they are entitled to and getting all those unpaid carers of ill family members and relatives, full entitlement to benefits.

    How will A4E work with any other agency involved inthe lives of families?


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