Early Intervention, The Child Trust Fund and Cuts

The age of austerity is spoken of without a second thought now, but spending cutbacks are relative to a situation, and for the past 10 years of financial boom (that is before the crash) it might appear that throwing money at problems was the UK solution, particularly at a local level.

This resulted in many different agencies, not working joined-up, to try and solve problems and/or find solutions, while treading on the toes of other frontline workers in the process.

Take Sure Start for example, one of the very best initiatives to be attributed to the New Labour Party of its time in office. Sure Start once had a ‘Children’s Centre’ model, it has slowly over time developed into an ‘arm’ of the welfare state by emphasising “getting mothers into work” and spotlighting teenage years, rather than focusing on early years and early interventions.

A demos report on parenting entitled Building Character took note of Sure Start in the section on policy directions pointing out there is not only a strategic risk of losing focus, but also economic dangers in doing work in an area that is already the remit of another public service.

There are a great deal of initiatives set up to try and get Mothers back into work and many more still whose role it is to spotlight teenagers – perhaps predictably the age of prosperity was the age of money wasting. Along with the bursting of the housing bubble in America, the economy soon was to be damned, for which we will pay, in spite of bailouts.

What was necessary thereafter was to fix what we shall call the double-spending problem in public services.

The advent of internet shopping has bought about what is known as e-money (as you can guess, this is money that is redeemable online), and this money is easy to duplicate. So, the boffs started to work out ways to rectify what had started to be called the double-spending problem. Those boffs made tracks to solve this problem by making it so every time e-money was spent a computer bank is notified to take note of every sale (so as to curb duplication).

Public spending has is its very own double-spending problem, though fortunately government have their very own cohort of boffs and they have realised the Total Place initiative.

The initiative, currently in its pilot stage in several authorities including Birmingham, aims to join up different services in the public sector with the intention of re-emphasising roles and remits, removing communication barriers between services which ought to be more joined up (as any frontline worker will inform, communication features as a major problem between, say for example, those working within children’s services and those working in mental health services, who would both benefit a great deal if communication barriers were removed – which in many instances they are – on a wider, national scale) and eventually making it far easier to ascertain what, and what is not, value for money.

With children’s services – in 2008\9 costing £63.18bn of the £620.685bn of total spending (around 10%) – it is crucial at once to recognise that austerity should definitely not affect some areas, but a sensible strategy be employed to identify where spending should reallocated to.

The Action for Children/NEF document Backing the Future made the very important and plausible case that spending should remain in carefully targeted areas of early intervention, in spite of the looming time where many areas of the public sector will be fighting over money from a smaller pot. Their report claimed to prove that “a 10-year investment of £191 billion in targeted interventions, such as working with families to keep children out of the care system, or improving parenting skills, will deliver a net return of £269 billion” though assured us that if at first this looks like a tremendously huge sum of money, to compare it with “the £4 trillion cost over 20 years of continuing with the current paradigm under which we continue to pay the costs of what are preventable social problems.”

Furthermore, these sums are only the ones they would declare to the treasury; their estimates are “for every £1 invested annually, between £7.60 and £9.20 of social value is generated for individuals, families, communities and other local services.”

One measure I suggest we don’t cut is the Child Trust Fund (savings and investment account for children born on or after 1 September 2002 which the government adds a £250 voucher to, in order to start their account, which can be topped up by parents, family or friends to a maximum of £1,200 a year). At an event on the CTF held by the Fabian Society recently, Carey Oppenheim of the IPPR, to the question of whether the fund was a wasteful use of public spending, replied no, adding that it was a small price to pay for something that has so much potential in social value, noting that it was an easy target for cuts because there would be, strictly speaking, “no losers”.

David White of The Children’s Mutual also added that it would be invaluably beneficial for “youngsters to arrive at adulthood with … opportunity” such as is the potential of the fund.

Critics may see it as wasteful, but they forget the added social value of it, others may see it as demonstrating the government’s need to rely on assets in their welfare schemes, but they forget that the child trust find should not be seen as party political, but as an inexpensive gesture. Though further, as something that can actually go a long way for children when their transition into adulthood comes, much like is the case for early intervention initiatives also, which for the reasons I’ve explained, should be spared the axe.



The Coming of the Tony Blair Messiah

We knew that the Messiah would one day return, would come back to deliver us from evil (nearing Easter)

But like Kafka said in his parable The Comong of the Messiah: “The Messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary”.

A Freudian, anti-Cartesian, look at Martin Scorsese’s ‘Shutter Island’

Spoiler Warning

How does one know one exists, Descartes, and is not in a dream? Through thinking. But Teddy Daniels is thinking. To analyse the subject of philosophy therefore, we must begin beyond the ego. It is not that we think, therefore we know we are – for this gives primacy to subjectivity based alone on ego, or consciousness. Rather, Freud’s theory of the unconscious subverted Descartes’ primacy of the ego; to say that there is thinking happening, that is not readily available to the consciousness, or put differently, one is not always conscious of everything they are thinking.

Though this is not all that the unconscious is. It is not simply that unconsciousness is the thinking that we do not know about, and has been that way since the begininng. It is that the unconscious is radically seperated from consciousness. This, in practical terms, is necessary, for if we were thinking everything at the level of the consciosness we’d remember nothing, we spend forever trying to open doors, we’d be reading every word on a page then trying to work that word out; we keep a lot locked in at the level of the unconscious so as not to constantly forget. The unconscious is the place where we keep things we do automatically.

But furthermore, more dramatically, it is the product of repression. We place things at the level of the unconscious as a way of repressing things that become too much for us, that are traumatic. For Teddy Daniels (played by Leornardo DiCaprio) the repression is due to his kids being killed by his wife, and then him killing his wife – who he has it, in his mind, as having died in a fire. This repression goes so far, so much so that too much reality has been put at the level of the unconscious, and he creates a fantasy world, where he is a US Marshal.

The audience, at the end of the film accepts this, perhaps may well have seen this twist coming from a mile away, but the question remians: what if we are duped ourselves, what if the doctors on shutter island (the characters of Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow and the others) are just telling Daniels that he is mentally unstable? Luckily Scorsese has this one covered, and can only be truly recognised in knowledge of his directorial skills.

How do we know when we are in the Matrix, film buffs? There are glitches, 2 cats walk by. The same theory must be applied to recognise when we are in the real on shutter island. There are continuity glitches (this mastery has obviously confused people with “filmmaking experience”). The scene on the boat towards the island, with Daniels and the man he thinks is his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), on their way to the Ashecliff Hospital for the criminally insane, there are a number of moments of seemingly erroneous continuity – but, of course, my contention is these stand for the glitches in Daniels’ grasping of reality, and this in turn demonstrates why it is in fact true that Daniels is a patient at Ashecliff Hospital – without this continuity trick, we too would find it hard to decipher reality.

What is more, the glitch in the Matrix, the breaks in continuity, these remind us that there are ways of knowing whether one is in a dream or not – to rebut the Cartesian premise – but, sometimes terrifyingly, the work of the unconscious is vast, and not subject to the same laws of knowing.

George Bush wipes hand on Clinton in Haiti

Orwell Prize Awards bloggers longlist

One thousand nine hundred and eighty-four claps for these impressive bloggers, may they lead the way to a blogospheric second coming.
David Osler               Dave’s Part (www.davidosler.com)
David Smith                  Letter from Africa (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/series/david-smiths-letter-from-africa)
Gideon Rachman          rachmanblog (http://blogs.ft.com/rachmanblog/)
Hopi Sen                      Hopi Sen (http://hopisen.wordpress.com)
Iain Dale                       Iain Dale’s Diary (http://iaindale.blogspot.com)
Jack of Kent                  Jack of Kent (http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/)
Laurie Penny                Penny Red and others (http://pennyred.blogspot.com)
Madam Miaow              Madam Miaow Says (http://madammiaow.blogspot.com/)
Mary Beard                   A Don’s Life (http://timesonline.typepad.com/dons_life/)
Morus                          PoliticalBetting.com; Daily Kos (http://politicalbetting.com; http://www.dailykos.com)
PC Ellie Bloggs              A Twenty-First Century Police Officer (http://pcbloggs.blogspot.com)
ray                               The Bad Old Days Will End (http://thebadolddayswillend.blogspot.com)
Tim Marshall                 Foreign Matters (http://blogs.news.sky.com/foreignmatters)
Winston Smith             Working with the Underclass (http://winstonsmith33.blogspot.com)
My particular congratulations for Mr Osler, Hopi, Laurie and Allen – you do provide good reads.
Onwards does the blogosphere march…

Budget 2010

These are my intial reactions to some of the measures made in the Budget 2010 (subject to change, does contain some humour):

Tax on bank bonuses will pay for a £2.5bn growth package.

For me this is less to do with growth, as it is to do with repaying those who have had to bail out risk – bad risk.

No one under 24 will be unemployed for more than six months, without receiving the firm offer of training.

NEETs is a serious problem in this country, that really hasn’t been helped by the push to get more people into university – which has resulted in short term internships or part time work. But perhaps there is something in the future of the latter – namely people working less hours. When I raised shorter working hours across the country, keeping the stability perks of full-time employment, in a sociology class at college 7 or 8 years ago it was treated as utopian dream – but more and more this becomes nearer to a reality – and has the backing of at least one small, but up-and-coming political party in this country with the Greens.

Alongside plans to rejuvenate frontline workers – for example nurses or social workers – efforts can be taken by the government – and are plausible, not utopian folly – to raise the minimum wage to a European living wage (not just the 2.2% increase to £5.93 per hour), and start cutting hours to make use of the newly trained workforce – to be sure fewer hours are better than no hours, which unfortunately has been the only option for some people.

Though, of course, one measure must be met with the other, which informs my discomfort with the half-baked effort of this particular measure. Will we see a day where, when after 6 months of this measure’s enforcement, we have more trained workers than jobs?

Help for first-time buyers by raising the tax-free threshold from £125,000 to £250,000, but raising stamp duty on residential property over £1m to 5 per cent.

I’m with John Prescott on this one – no brainer; if you don’t raise stamp for those with properties of over £1m it by causality affects the lesser off- the no-brainer is, of course, who will be affected the least.

Those earning more than £100,000 can look forward to some allowances being removed. Re-announces 1p rise in national insurance and 50p tax.

I don’t know where this potential saving is planning to go into, but the general rule remains; unless you tax the well off in spending squeezes, you hurt the poor.

New £35bn fund to help universities spin out entrepreneurial ideas

Translation: Darling causes 600% increase in sales of Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

Child tax credit to rise by £4 a week

Noble gesture, of course, but could be better if tailored – and increased – for the more vulnerable families rather than across the board.

Cider is “under-taxed” – it will be raised by 10 per cent from midnight on Sunday. Strong ciders will be even more heavily taxed, though the Chancellor didn’t give details.

But no saving will be made, in the long term, owing to the vast increase in waging special constables to curb scrumping.

Writing in red came from the live updates of the budget report on the Telegraph

Poem to Byers, Hoon, and Hewitt

Byers, Hoon, and Hewitt,

a retraction they did not pursue it,

I say cover them in suet,

cover and bake then chew it (metaphorically speaking, I think).

Hewitt, Byers, Hoon,

dropped by whip as soon

as possible, thank the moon

and stars we don’t don’t pelt at them with spoons.

Hewitt, Hoon, and Byers,

unleash the labour pliers,

dangle them over hot fires,

and apply them to their bottoms.

Take away from them the whip,

for their labours are a jip,

for a new left society and state,

labour must toss away dead weight.

Victory for the Surrey Headteacher: The Return of the Islamophobia Debate

The so-called ‘Islamophobe’ Erica Connor has been awarded £400,000 (David T called of HuH called for her to receive a payment last year, a small victory for him – although I now learn this victory will be short lived) by a Surrey Court, on the grounds of stress owing to her being branded a cruel and flabbily defined word for opposing 2 governors with heavily-tinged religious ideological plans for a state school. That school is said to be 85% Muslim, but this remains far from the point, the governing body of a school is well defined, and does not include within its remit the ideological infrastructure of its curriculum.

A Times article has said:

Erica Connor, 57, the former head teacher of the New Monument primary school in Woking, Surrey, was forced to leave the school because of stress after she was accused of Islamophobia [...] Paul Martin, a Muslim convert [and one of the two Muslim governors], tried to stir up disaffection in the community against the school and Mumtaz Saleem was verbally abusive in school meetings, it was said in court.

What Erica did or did not do in the run up of her stress period is not of my concern, but rather this court decision should restore that timely debate: what is Islamophobia?

There has been a brief history of leftists trying to champion what they perceive as Islamofascism, or notions of theocratic thought – and it has been their mission to take this stance back to where it belongs; left wing thought. Nick Cohen is one of these thinkers, Johann Hari is another, but many on the left ridicule their position as neo-conservative, and the right by and large seem to have this all tied up – who to blame?

Even at a basic level; Paul Goodman MP, for the ConservativeHome website, has at least noted:

There’s a difference between Islamophobia and the hatred of Muslims – although the two are indisputably linked.  The target of the first is a religion.  The target of the second is people.

There are grounds for some convergence here for left and right thinking; but it is important for the left to get there perception of Islam in perspective. For example, though Ayaan Hirsi Ali (in case you don’t know – see here) has recently been championed as a feminist opponent of an agressive streak that runs through certain parts of Islam, particularly with regards to women, though her claim that Islamophobia is a myth should not be taken lightly.

She made note of this as a way of saying that unlike anti-Semitism, Islam is not a race. Here she misses the point; even Paul Goodman saw the indisputable link between what is a racially motivated attack, and one which identifies Islam, but the co-ordinates of the two are not necessarily linked – by which is meant criticism of Islam is not necessarily a racist criticism.

What those above leftist polemicists have noted is that the charge Islamophobia often obscures the terms of the debate, but their worry – and mine too – is that a large proportion of the obscuring has come from the left (the Salman Rushdie affair is one key player in this, another is the Eagleton and Amis argument, and more recently the ICA, Chris Morris and Iain McEwan – also see here and here) which has meant the right has swooped in and championed the case for logical thinking on this subject (yes, I know, logical thinking).

But with regards to the Surrey case, one thing could have helped: on a local level, the council might have stepped in against the two ideological governors who were doing more than was required of their role, and stopped the head teacher from being scapegoated. On national level, there needs to be more than just a Conservative like Paul Goodman (with a political role in communities and local government) challenging the terms of the debate on Islamophobia, or else more people who are uncomfortable with the ideology of militant religious discourse will be vilified, a High Court settling should not be the only way to battle this peculiar aversion, born on the soppy left.

Anecdota, Human truth and the case of Claude Debussy: A Project Plan

Aim

To show the significance of anecdota – the Greek root of the word anecdote – in the context of revealing truths that might otherwise resist so-called established “objective” means. Further, I will demonstrate, with examples from Procopius’ Secret History and Claude Debussy’s musical relationship with Richard Wagner, that the root of the word anecdote is more significant than the word anecdote itself – a word that is now set in distinction to objective truth.

Human history, limits of Hard Materialist science and metaphysical inference

The physical, biological and chemical sciences all explain material objects in a simple pool of cause and effect – be it mechanically or dialectically – and this works perfectly and correctly for physical objects, biological systems and chemical elements. But human history has given rise to something that might resist a simple cause and effect analysis: consciousness. It is vital that we briefly mention Hard Darwinists (Darwinists that seek a Darwinian answers in EVERYTHING, that consider that everything has a function which can be explained away by appeals to survival. Opposed to Darwinists like Stephen Jay Gould who consider some elements of a biological system to be mere accidental by-products, or “spandrels”. I would like to make the case that consciousness is a “spandrel” of mind and environment like the case given by Paul Larfargue in his “Origin of Abstract Ideas”) like Daniel Dennett who purport a grave error when trying to explain consciousness as a simple element in the chain of cause and effect, not to mention the pursuit of neuroscience which misses the point of the Freudian unconscious, again trying to reduce it to meat and neurons.

The need for a non-Hard science

In other words, a system that accounts for the irrational underbelly of consciousness, that is to say the unconscious. However not just simply Freudianism, but a type of Freudianism that provides grounds for Gould’s notion of a “spandrel”. Freudianism in the category of biology, consciousness (and unconsciousness) that doesn’t develop for any survival reason, but as an accidental counterpart to mind and the environment that it finds itself in, providing the grounds for an explanation of the workings of mind.

The talking cure, for example, is the activity of potential truth or something that, in the lack of a hard objective root or substance, in a way may be considered for scrutiny. The idea is that we can take these elements considered for scrutiny – as they appear in the form of a tic or symptom – and build a system out of them, for example we can scrutinise Claude Debussy’s own admission that Wagner was like a musical Father to him, but then draw conclusions as to why Debussy mocked Wagner in his piano suite Children’s Corner and became obsessed with not being an imitation of Wagner (Sources are made from Roger Parker’s The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera and Leon Vallas’ Claude Debusyy – His Life and Works).

What am I trying to prove? Debussy invoked his Wagnerian influence, was perceived and perceived himself as a mere imitation, became obsessed with denying himself of Wagner and in the mean time produced an important element of music that juxtaposes excerpts from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde with a cakewalk – an obvious mocking of Wagner (not least for his detestable racism and anti-Semitism).

Anecdota and its root

Procpius’

The Secret History reveals an author who had become deeply disillusioned with the emperor Justinian and his wife, Theodora, as well as Belisarius, his former commander and patron, and Antonina, Belisarius’ wife.

Here we can see how important the root of the Greek word anecdota reveals something secret. The difference for me between anecdota and anecdote or anecdotal evidence is that the latter is utilised in lieu of scientific evidence, whereas the former promotes possible scientific scrutiny. It is the difference between a symptom or a sign that reveals itself at an unconscious level like Debussy’s obsession with Wagner and the redundant example presented by Peter Griffin of Family Guy which went along the lines of “one should not buy a second-hand car, I had a friend who bought a second-hand car once and BAAM!! eight years later he died of cancer”.

In short, the original anecdota reveals more for scrutiny in the form of symptoms and this should be more readily utilised in order to ascertain truths that resist the typical pursuits of physical, biological and chemical sciences. It should be noted that the theory does not carry any unwanted baggage like anti-science, but it is unabashedly pro-Freud, pro-Gould, and anti-Dennett.

The truth is in between

One can learn an awful lot walking about Pitsea, Essex, late at night in pursuit of beer, but one does not suspect a philosophical awakening, of any calibre. Though, on this particular Saturday night (the 14th of March 2010) a linguistic challenge of epic proportions was put to us – the beer pursuers we shall call ourselves – in the form of a sign.

Professor Gwen Griffith-Dickson, a former chair of Divinity at Gresham College in 2001, and the first woman to hold the title, delivered a lecture at about that same time, where she discussed the co-ordinates of what might be called ‘Truth’. She discussed two particularly influential thinkers, into the scope of the subject by saying:

Both Lacan and Wittgenstein agree that language in fact can make the world of things present to us. ‘When you understand what is expressed in the signs of the language, it is always, in the end, on account of light coming to you from outside of the signs The truth is outside of the signs, elsewhere.’

But the expedition undertaken by the beer pursuers found quite a different conclusion to the question of where truth may exist, in relation to signs, and it is closer to the title of the said lecture: Professor Gwen Griffith-Dickson’s lecture that night was entitled The Truth is in Between - and it really rather was, particularly for the diversion of pedestrians.

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