Can Cameron Fix ‘Troubled Families’?

Date: Wednesday 15 February 2012, 6:45pm (for 7pm start) to 8:30pm

Venue: Room 1, Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds

Speakers: Jennie Bristow and Nick Frost

£5 waged/£3 unwaged on the door

Facebook event link


Many of those who took part in the riots that shook London and other English cities in
August 2011 were children and young teenagers. For Prime Minster David Cameron and many opinion-formers, the blame lies with a lack of parental responsibility. “The question people asked over and over again”, Cameron asserted, “was ‘where are the parents?’” — the implication being that parents weren’t at home, didn’t care, or had lost control. The answer for the Government, therefore, is intervention into the 120,000 most “troubled families”, who, it is claimed, are responsible for terrorising neighbourhoods and cost the state an estimated £9bn a year of extra spending on the NHS, policing and social services.

To tackle this problem, the government has set up a Troubled Families Unit, headed by New Labour’s former ‘respect tsar’ Louise Casey. This includes plans for a network of ‘troubleshooters’ who will act as a single point of call to help ‘empower’ families to “take control of their lives”, drawing-up action plans for basics tasks such as ensuring children arrive at school on time and are fed, and helping parents on to work programmes. Families that refuse to co-operate could face benefit sanctions, the removal of their children from their care, eviction from their homes, or ASBOs.

Cameron’s plans synchronise existing family intervention strategies begun under the previous New Labour government, designed to prevent young people from becoming criminals. However, not only did these strategies fail to prevent young people from rioting, but some question whether the intrusion of officialdom into the family may be partly responsible for the inability of many parents to control the behaviour of their children in the first place: discouraging parents from disciplining their children and often inadvertently undermining parental authority. In addition, adults more generally have become reluctant, or even afraid, to intervene in instances of youthful anti-social behaviour. And when even the police stand back and allow youth to loot and burn down their own neighbourhoods, isn’t it disingenuous for the government to simply assign the blame to poor parenting?

Others think Cameron’s response to the riots is not so much harmful as pointless. For them, the coalition is in denial of the real problems, which are mainly of a wider socio-economic nature: unemployment, police brutality, and racism.

So have family intervention policies been harmful, useless, or not gone far enough? And will a new network of ‘troubleshooters’ help restore parental responsibility or make matters even worse?



Troubleshooters scheme to tackle ‘troubled families’, BBC, 15 December 2011

Cameron’s cure will make society sicker, Frank Furedi, Spiked, 23 August 2011

Time to Rethink the Child-Centred Society?, Mark Wanstall, FIPA, 27 September 2011

These riots were not a product of permissiveness, Jennie Bristow, Spiked, 30 August 2011

UK riots: ‘Being liberal is fine, but we need to be given the right to parent, Amelia Gentleman, Guardian, 10 August 2011

The View on the Streets: Riot Control (video), WORLDbytes, FIPA

Labour MP partly blames anti-smacking law for UK riots, The Guardian, 29 January 2012


Leeds Salon on Facebook

Follow theleedssalon on Twitter

Sign up to our mailing list


The Leeds Salon is a judging partner of the sixth form Debating Matters competition

The Tetley and The Leeds Salon are partners in school debate for central and south Leeds

The HFoI and The Leeds Salon are partners in school debate for north Leeds


Leeds Salon is a member of the Amazon Affiliate Programme. When you follow this link, we receive a small percentage of anything you spend in that visit. It costs you no extra but is a big help to us!

Leeds Debate Links

Arts Society Leeds

Café Psychologique

Café Scientifique (Chapel Allerton)

Café Scientifique (Headingley)

FORUM 2000

Headingley Festival of Ideas

Headingley LitFest

Leeds Library Salon

Leeds Phil & Lit Society

Leeds Pint of Science

Taking Soundings

Talking Allowed In Leeds: PiPs

Think Headingley: PiPs


National Debate Links

Salon Aberystwyth

Birmingham Salon

East Midlands Salon

Exeter Salon

Liverpool Salon

London Legal Salon

Manchester Salon

Academy of Ideas

Debating Matters

Manifesto Club


The Great Debate



Global Debate Links

Berlin Salon

Dublin Salon

Zurich Salon


Donations gratefully received