Founder of Social Policy Forum at Academy of Ideas
Dave Clements is a writer, adviser to local government, and first convened the Social Policy Forum at the Institute of Ideas in 2008. He has over 15 years experience in policy and strategy development, in children’s, adults’ and integrated services, working across the public and charity sectors.
Dave is contributing co-editor of The Future of Community (Pluto, 2008), author of Social Care for Free Citizens (Manifesto Club, 2010) and a contributor to The Future of the Welfare State (Axess, 2017). He also writes widely on contemporary policy culture for publications including The Guardian and online journal spiked.
The obsession with loneliness has not just sprung from nowhere. There has been a therapeutic turn in policy-making and in society more broadly; and, post-Brexit, a uncomprehending elite reaction to a society they imagine to be somehow less friendly than it was a year or so ago.
Across the political spectrum the homeless tend to be treated as passive recipients, whether of abuse or pity. While bad housing and welfare policy are creating more homelessness, it is often the critics of these policies that are creating homeless victims.
It is surely more important - especially now, post-Brexit, when the political class is running for cover - that we have a national debate on how we go about building a more prosperous future, not worrying over the dividing up of what little wealth is being generated now.
There is reason to be optimistic about what the future might hold. The fear and pessimism that has characterised recent times, and that continues to grip and paralyse our political culture, can and should be relegated to the past.
Courtney Cox and David Beckham have recently drawn attention to those sleeping rough (or at least to their part in drawing our attention to them). And rightly too. There were 1,768 people sleeping rough in England in autumn 2010. This more than doubled to 3,569 in 2015.
It is all too tempting to blame the young for not having enough 'go' in them, for their self-pity and endless moaning about the housing ladder and tuition fees. As if they really are the most put upon generation there ever was. I'm guilty of blaming them for that.
The travelling public should not grumble about the temporary inconvenience of longer journeys to and from work. Shake them by the hand. By defending their own interests and striving for more for themselves, they are standing up for us all. Good on 'em I say!
It is demeaning, they argue, to stand in line for a food parcel. But is it really any less demeaning to stand in a not dissimilar line at the door of a job centre or welfare office. Don't both turn people into state dependents?
There is good reason to point to welfare changes as having the single most sizeable bearing on the rise in foodbanks and the take-up of food parcels. According to the Trust (ever-reliable in recording its foodbank activity), in 2013/14 benefit delays accounted for the highest number of referrals.
The economic crisis, not just the recent downturn, is all too real and unprecedented in its apparent resistance to the interventions of a clueless political class. But exaggerating the extent of the so-called 'food poverty' problem isn't helping anybody.
Next month, as part of the Sport Relief season of programmes (I know, yawn), we lucky viewers will be treated to seeing the likes of the <em>Dragon's Den's </em>Theo Paphitis and some spoilt rich 'star' off <em>Made in Chelsea</em> quite literally slumming it with people living in 'food poverty' (whatever that is supposed to mean).