Tuesday, 11 May 2010

LEARN YOUR HISTORY

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I subscribe to ‘History and Policy Organisation at:

http://www.historyandpolicy.org/papers/policy-paper-100.html

Time and time again Politian's’ fail to learn from history and pretend that the current political and parliamentary crisis is a contemporary phenomena. A new age rising of the modern global market. Actually this is bunkum, and as ‘cuts’ ‘cuts’ ‘cuts’ is the mantra of the political masses, I decided to look at an issue of Social Policy, something I am well versed in, from the ‘History and Policy’ website:

“In the field of social policy, politicians are especially prone to generalising about the past, making assumptions about the reasons for change and legitimising their own proposals with rhetorical appeals to 'history'. Margaret Thatcher pioneered this with her campaign in the early 1980s for Britain to revive its so-called 'Victorian values'. Abigail Will's H&P paper showed how New Labour also subscribed to the myth of a law-abiding 'golden age' of respect and deference in the past, adopting the most severe policy stance on juvenile justice for 150 years. H&P has held policymakers to account for their use of historical examples and attempted to foster a better understanding of the past. For example, at our major event on pensions reform in 2006 we successfully confronted the then Pensions Minister with his department's bad history of the Beveridge reforms.

Pensions reform remains one of the most challenging areas of domestic policy, with twentieth-century governments missing opportunities to achieve lasting solutions approximately once every decade. As a result governments cling to policies that past and present experience show to be failures - means testing and pensions linked to employment contributions - to the detriment of pensioners living in poverty today. The British pensions system has become a multi-layered and highly complicated web as successive governments have bolted on new features rather than tackling inherent problems. Hugh Pemberton showed that, from the outset, the state pension introduced in 1946 was not properly funded, in fact operating as a pay-as-you-go scheme with current contributions funding current pensions. Then from the 1950s the value of this pension began to decline relative to pay, creating demands for an earnings link to be introduced, while occupational pension schemes mushroomed, creating a vast and powerful interest group in the private sector. Pat Thane's paper explains how women in particular have lost out as a result of this cumulative policy failure: their public pensions have been inadequate since they were first introduced in 1908, and were always recognised as being so. This was why the first pensions were non-contributory and why later reforms proposed to remove gender inequalities but, due to the low rate at which state pensions were paid, this was not achieved. Understanding the history of British pensions reveals that the famous Beveridge Report of 1942, romanticised above all by Labour, was never fully implemented by the Attlee government or its successors. Its core proposal, for a universal basic state pension which would provide enough to live on, has yet to be achieved today.

Policies to support single mothers and their young children have also seen the perceived financial needs of the modern state prioritised over effective social policy. Tanya Evans shows how the 'New Poor Law' of 1834 left an unpleasant legacy of workhouses and the stigmatisation of illegitimate births, which was not properly addressed until the Finer Report of 1974 proposed a one-parent family benefit. Though this was to be means-tested and, where possible, recouped from the absent parent, it was rejected by the Labour government of the time as being too expensive. Instead, late-twentieth century governments have implemented yet another series of measures which have failed to deliver long-term solutions for single mothers, focusing unsuccessfully on forcing fathers to pay, though history has consistently shown that many absent fathers are simply unwilling or unable to do so. The high cost of enforcement and repeated attempts at effective reform of the Child Support Agency (CSA) have now far outweighed the cost of introducing a scheme such as Finer's, which would at least have been money spent improving the incomes of single-parent households and the life chances of children.

Meanwhile Thomas Nutt shows that in some parts of the country the pre-1834 'Old Poor Law' seems to have operated more effectively than the present-day CSA, with parishes in early-nineteenth century West Yorkshire recouping 97 per cent of the cost of supporting unmarried mothers, while the CSA had arrears of almost £3.8 billion by September 2009. Looking at the Old Poor Law's success in this field as a model for present-day reformers suggests that a successful child support system requires not only institutional determination to enforce paternal responsibility but also responsiveness to absent parents' ability to pay and flexibility in the system to allow for individual circumstances, and this is more likely to be achieved if administration is devolved to the local level. "

Like I said, learn your history, and stop reinventing the wheel, if the political elite did this more often our country might not be in such a mess and we would not be ridding around on a political roundabout.

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