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Friday, February 16, 2007

Responsibility, society, and young people

The shootings in South London in the past few days give rise to serious concern. The murder near Clapham North, in Lambeth, was the latest example and has focused attention on the lives of some of our young people. The response of our councillors there has been measured and demonstrates practical knowledge of the area they represent.

David Cameron today is talking about both these events and a recent UNICEF report on children in the UK (and elsewhere). He stresses a need for a change in our values as a society and for more responsibility by fathers. He believes it is not just a matter of changing the law or providing more money. He has also spoken about the need for companies to reduce the pressure on people to work long hours. (This is all part of the Tories new 'mood music' on social issues - there are few specific policies to date).

To some extent this is true of course. But social change cannot happen simply by exhortation. If that was true, we would not have needed the social legislation of the past 100+ years. Mines would have stopped sending children underground simply because they were encouraged not to do so, and all companies would have automatically provided paid maternity leave.

Today, the problem of time at work is experienced most by those on low pay who need to work long hours; if it was not for the minimum wage and benefits, things would be a lot worse. They required legislation and some redistribution. Simple steps, such as providing readily accessible facilities for young people, do require resources but can go a long way.

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