Tag Archives: Editorials & reply

The Guardian view on Labour’s byelection win: not such a bad week after all

There’s always hope, though I am not sure how much.
You have to have faith in something though. 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view on Labour’s byelection win: not such a bad week after all” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Friday 4th December 2015 19.05 UTC

Labour retains safe Labour seat in Lancashire heartlands byelection. No story there, then. Except that, in the case of the Oldham West and Royton byelection, there undoubtedly is a story. This has been a torrid back end of the year for Labour. Splits, bad blood and bad headlines have cooked up such a witches’ brew for Jeremy Corbyn’s party that the expectation on all sides, based on doorstep evidence, was of a Labour slump and even perhaps a loss to Ukip. Early editions of the Daily Mail on Friday were so confident that they ran a pre-declaration story headlined “Corbyn effect costs Labour thousands of votes.” But, let’s be honest, no one else saw evidence of a big Labour win coming.

It is true that the Labour vote fell this week in Oldham West compared with the general election. But so did everybody else’s. That’s because turnout as a whole went down from 60% in May to 40% on Thursday, sadly typical for a modern byelection. What matters though, was that Labour’s share of the vote actually went up – by seven points – not down, while the Conservatives fell by 10 points and Ukip, supposedly the great threat to Labour this week, managed only a small increase while still ending nearly 11,000 votes adrift of Labour’s new MP Jim McMahon.

That’s a good bankable win for Labour in anyone’s money. Mr McMahon’s success puts him into the top 20 Labour shares of the vote in Britain and gives his party a much-needed electoral fillip after a grim time. The flip side of it is that it’s a bad loss for the challengers, Ukip and the Tories, never mind the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, all of whom might have persuaded themselves that Oldham West might offer them something. The gas has gone out of Ukip’s balloon, at least in Lancashire, while George Osborne’s party has no electoral dividend to show for all his northern powerhouse-building.

It’s a mistake to pretend that Labour’s win is all that unusual, though. By a coincidence, the first byelection of the last parliament was in neighbouring Oldham East and Saddleworth in January 2011. Labour successfully put up its share in that byelection too, by a meaty 10 points, while the Tory share halved. It was a reassuring win for Labour’s new leader Ed Miliband, whose party mostly did well in byelections for the next three years. But like most byelections in the early part of a parliament it said little or nothing about the 2015 general election result when it eventually came. There was a long way still to go, then as now.

Mr McMahon was clearly an excellent candidate in a crucial contest for his party. Talented, local, competent, well known in an area where he is the council leader, he was nobody’s callow besuited candidate from Westminster central casting. These things probably mattered more than that he was on a different wing of the party from his leader. Labour’s factions will argue long and loud about whether Oldham was a victory for Mr McMahon or Mr Corbyn. Their respective conclusions will reflect their respective prejudices. The truth is surely that, between them, they did enough to allow the Labour brand to win once more.

Real votes matter more than opinion polls. Yet each of them is important. Labour can draw comfort from Oldham West. But it has to beware the message of a poll this week which showed, first, that the voters grew more doubtful about air strikes in Syria as Wednesday’s Commons vote drew near but, second, that Mr Corbyn’s job ratings have fallen sharply since he took over in September. Mr Corbyn now has a net approval rating of -41, compared with -8 in September. David Cameron, by contrast, has a rating of zero, with voters evenly divided. That should be cause for Labour concern.

Still, we should not be hypocritical. If Labour had lost Thursday’s byelection, this editorial and this weekend’s political talk would all be about Mr Corbyn, especially after a searing week at Westminster over Syria. His leadership would be on the line. The profiles of Hilary Benn would be being burnished. So if defeat for Labour would have been bad for Mr Corbyn, it surely follows that victory for Labour must be good for him. His leadership is therefore not on the line right now. In Oldham at least, Mr Corbyn was not the issue in the way his opponents and critics might have imagined. On Wednesday, Labour MPs went along with majority party opinion and supported him on Syria by two to one. This tells us something, perhaps not too much, about the future. Nevertheless, the Labour leader can undoubtedly breathe a sigh of relief this weekend. And so can his party, at least until next time.

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Camila Batmanghelidjh surprised troubled kids with love

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Camila Batmanghelidjh surprised troubled kids with love” was written by Libby Brooks, for The Guardian on Friday 3rd July 2015 18.04 UTC

Camila Batmanghelidjh doesn’t text. Chronically dyslexic, the plethora of electronic means of communication, second nature to the young people she works with, is anathema to the children’s campaigner and founder of Kids Company. I found this frustrating when I was getting to know her, over a decade ago, first as a journalist researching a book on childhood and later as a volunteer for the charity. Wasn’t it rather queenly to expect a personal audience in this frantic and impersonal age? But I came to recognise that this was her gift: there were no fob-offs or polite ambiguities with Batmanghelidjh, no compromise with – often entirely pragmatic – convention, no fools suffered gladly either. And when she was with you, she really was with you.

I can only imagine what it must have felt like to sit in a room with her as a furious, dislocated, damaged child of the kind she found on the streets of south London, whom she fed, clothed and educated when no other social service would or could. “A child who has been terrorised and neglected isn’t going to feel threatened by punishment,” the Iranian-born psychotherapist explained to me. “Loving care surprised them more.” She recognised that love is an action.

On Friday Batmanghelidjh announced that she is to step down after nearly 20 years at the head of Kids Company, the charity she founded in 1996, which specialises in therapeutic support for severely abused and traumatised children. She accused politicians of playing “ugly games” after it was revealed that the Conservative government has signalled an end to its £5m annual funding, with the forfeit for further assistance set as her resignation and that of the charity’s chairman, broadcaster Alan Yentob. While official sources briefed against her, claiming that funds had not been properly accounted for and that the social impact of the charity’s services was in doubt, she dismissed it as a callow attempt to discredit her. Kids Company is now facing severe cutbacks if it is to survive, leaving thousands of vulnerable young people without support.

Ironically, the first time I encountered Batmanghelidjh in public, she was standing next to David Cameron. It was 2006, and the newly elected Tory leader had just delivered his infamous hug-a-hoodie speech. That mocking moniker, which of course he did not suggest, is now so well-worn that it’s easy to forget how groundbreaking it was both for the inveterately punitive Conservative party and indeed for any politician to boldly reference “love”. Batmanghelidjh was instrumental in that radical repositioning.

So it is baffling to see the same Tory leader apparently letting Kids Company swing for the sake of £5m. It’s no secret that Batmanghelidjh has annoyed plenty of people over the years, both on the left and the right, most recently with her criticism of the UK’s child protection system as not fit for purpose. She has been attacked for her unconventional methods and refusal to countenance the bureaucratic strictures of state care that can hamper swift intervention. My understanding is that she is not always the easiest of people to work for, mainly because her tunnel vision means that necessary conventions such as funding reserves and staff organisation are overwhelmed by crisis-to-crisis management.

It’s baffling too because Kids Company has enjoyed much high-profile support over the years, and indeed many Tory and City donors. With her bright turbans and dazzling charisma, Batmanghelidjh is a colossally successful networker and fundraiser. But the day-to-day running of the centres was far from glitzy. Many of those who attend are volatile, and staff are regularly threatened. I’ve heard plenty of third-sector sceptics conclude that her policy of loving kindness was naive. But I saw at first hand someone who knew how to get things done, and who was remarkable for the immediacy with which she cut through street swagger to reach an unhappy child.

At Kids Company, I met many young people who had referred themselves to the service. The majority had not been parented in any conventional sense, and they were often homeless. I remember Batmanghelidjh spending a frustrating afternoon shuttling between state services as she tried to find a bed for a girl who had run away from her abusive stepfather. On another occasion, security staff waited anxiously at the door of her cramped office while she spent hours talking gently to a raging teenager who was threatening to stab a fellow client over some imagined slight.I spent most of my time with a boy called Ashley. Just 15, he was already a small-time drug-dealer with a history of gun-related violence. Batmanghelidjh helped him come off skunk and found a sympathetic private tutor to make up his lost years of schooling. The last I heard, he was living happily with his girlfriend and studying for a qualification in sports management.

In 2005, the first children’s commissioner for England, Al Aynsley-Green, marked his appointment by warning of a national ambivalence towards children, with adults investing enormously in the young people with whom they are intimately involved while remaining at best equivocal and at worst fearful towards those growing up on the margins. Batmanghelidjh excelled at bridging that mistrust, preaching her gospel of empathy and emphasising that the consequence of so many unloved children was a distortion of the “emotional economy” of the whole country. At a time when further austerity can only serve to fragment society further, we need that message more than ever.

Earlier this week, a UN report called on the government to reconsider its deep welfare cuts, just as Iain Duncan Smith announced he was scrapping the 2020 child poverty target. This was denounced by Labour as the obituary for compassionate Conservatism. The treatment of Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company offers just as chilling a coda. Of course, the trajectory of a single charity has its peculiar complexities, but the broader symbolism is devastating. If this is what child protection looks like under a majority Conservative government, God help the child.

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An obituary from the year 2025 for a Labour party that abandoned its roots

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “An obituary from the year 2025 for a Labour party that abandoned its roots” was written by Aditya Chakrabortty, for The Guardian on Monday 11th May 2015 20.00 UTC

Throughout its long and volatile life, Labour had heard many predictions of imminent demise. Yet mass shock still greeted the party’s passing away in its sleep early yesterday morning, 9 May 2025, just shy of its 120th birthday. The proximate cause of death given was the trauma suffered after one election defeat too many.

This was a party that had long been accused of harbouring a death wish. Who could forget the epithet hurled at Michael Foot’s 1983 manifesto? “The longest suicide note in history.” In 2015 – just weeks before the humiliation of Ed Miliband – Labour’s roving philosopher, Jon Cruddas, had predicted that his side could simply “disintegrate in real time”. Back then, he’d been called foolish; only later was he hailed as prescient.

The hindsight of the 2020s is a marvellous thing; at the time, Labour’s steady decline was obscured by its own fidgetiness. It swerved left, then squirmed right. It wanted free markets but controlled immigration; it sought to be business-friendly, to a big business class only interested in ripping off the public. Many circles were apparently squared in that tumultuous quarter-century.Meanwhile, the myth that Gordon Brown had spent all the money became unshakeable, shaping the next generation of politics – just as the jibe about the winter of discontent had reverberated through the 80s and early 90s.

Perhaps mirroring the party’s diminishing patience, the people in charge sported ever-shorter names: Tristram, Stella, Dan.Throughout, the diminishing membership displayed their traditional contemptuous loyalty to whoever happened to be in charge. By Labour’s last election of May 2025, its much-trumpeteddifference with the Tory perma-government came down to this: our PPE graduates are smarter than your PPE graduates.

All this provided gallows humour and column fodder. Yet Labour could survive numerous defeats, as Ed Miliband’s own propaganda acknowledged: “Labour has only been in government for four short periods of the 20th century.” Even David Cameron’s boundary reform, which holed Labour below the 250-seat watermark, could be endured. What the movement couldn’t afford to let slip, however, was its role as the natural conduit for the discontents of wider society. That was what distinguished it from the natural party of government, the Conservatives. Fatally, that was the part it stopped playing.

From Arthur Henderson onwards, the party’s central demand had always been fair shares. That goal was defined by the father of the NHS, Nye Bevan, as “where the doctor, the grocer, the butcher and farm labourer all lived on the same street – the living tapestry of a mixed community”. Some hope of enacting that in today’s property market. In a society growing apart as fast as Britain’s, it was becoming impossible to agree what “fair” meant. Vast inequality had bred political polarisation. Labour, the party of collective politics, now represented a collection of niche electorates.

That one fact glared out of the results of the 2015 election. Multicultural London became more Labour, even while university towns and Guardianista strongholds began flirting with the Greens– a trend which was only to continue over the next two general elections. Meanwhile, across the de-industrialised north, Nigel Farage robbed votes from Miliband. “It suddenly became clear that Labour no longer had just one enemy – the Tories,” remembers Glen O’Hara, professor of history at Oxford Brookes university. “It had a whole kaleidoscope of enemies – from UKIP to the SNP.”

Economics commentators had long warned that the very idea of a national economy had become untenable. London was now a city-state for bankers and hipsters, supported by immigrant service workers the guff sold to the north and Wales about becoming a knowledge economy was just lies.

Now Ed Balls and other Labour big beasts were discovering what that meant for them: wipe-out. Economic and political polarisation were to be the central facts of the 2020s. Labour had faced this problem before in the 1930s – this time, however, it had neither electoral hiding place nor the regular inflow of political talent.

No political party can speak three different languages at the same time, especially not one that has got out of the habit of listening to its own base. Faced with an impossible task, the elite that now ruled the people’s party – the Kinnocks and Goulds and Straws – crumbled. While the Tories were also reduced to a regional party, its voter base was, at least, in largely one place. Now that Nicola Sturgeon had won Scotland, Cameron and George Osborne were much better than their Labour opposite numbers at playing the English vote. Not only that, the Tories used their decade alone in power to tame any dissenting parts of civil society. The BBC, the non-governmental organisations, the universities: all saw their funding regimes tightened up and responded by buttoning up on any unhelpful criticisms.

Labourism had emerged from an industrial culture: you could be born in a co-op hospital and be buried by the co-op funeral service. Most of those civil institutions had collapsed after Margaret Thatcher. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s response had been to create a new client base of public sector workers across de-industrialised Britain. By 2020 Cameron and Osborne had put paid to that. What they left instead was an insider-outsider economy: those on a good wage with a house might still be tempted to vote Labour, those struggling on three temporary jobs a day had no such line to the movement.

Labour leaves behind an estimable legacy. As prime minister, George Osborne is still able to rely on those private finance initiative  schools and hospitals, while Brown’s knot of tax credits proved impossible to cut while maintaining a low-wage workforce. The party is succeeded by two offspring. First is Fabian and Fabian, a small publishing house producing glossy proposals for ever more taxes. Then there is WWP, short for the White Working-Class party: a grouplet of cultural studies graduates who hold regular tours of defunct factories and monthly meat raffles.

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The Guardian view: Britain needs a new direction, Britain needs Labour

Fingers crossed that we can move forward. 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view: Britain needs a new direction, Britain needs Labour” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Friday 1st May 2015 12.15 UTC

The campaign is nearly over and it is time to choose. We believe Britain needs a new direction. At home, the economic recovery is only fragile, while social cohesion is threatened by the unequal impact of the financial crisis and the continuing attempt to shrink the postwar state. Abroad, Britain remains traumatised by its wars, and, like our neighbours, is spooked by Vladimir Putin, the rise of jihadist terrorism and by mounting migratory pressures. In parts of Britain, nationalist and religious identities are threatening older solidarities, while privacy and freedom sometimes feel under siege, even as we mark 800 years since Magna Carta. More people in Britain are leading longer, healthier and more satisfying lives than ever before – yet too many of those lives feel stressed in ways to which politics struggles to respond, much less to shape.

This is the context in which we must judge the record of the outgoing coalition and the choices on offer to voters on 7 May. Five years ago, Labour was exhausted and conflicted, amid disenchantment over war, recession and Gordon Brown’s leadership. The country was ready for a change, one we hoped would see a greatly strengthened Liberal Democrat presence in parliament combine with the core Labour tradition to reform politics after the expenses scandal. That did not happen. Instead the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have governed together for five difficult years.

That experiment has clearly run its course. The outgoing government proved that coalitions can function, which is important, and it can be proud of its achievements on equal marriage and foreign aid. But its record, as our recent series of editorials on detailed themes has shown, is dominated by an initial decision to pursue a needless and disastrous fiscal rigidity. That turned into a moral failure, by insisting on making the neediest and the least secure pay the highest price for an economic and financial crash that they did not cause. The evidence is there in the one million annual visits to foodbanks, a shocking figure in what is, still, a wealthy country.

David Cameron has been an increasingly weak prime minister. On issues such as Europe, the integrity of the United Kingdom, climate change, human rights and the spread of the low-wage economy, he has been content to lead the Tories back towards their nastiest and most Thatcherite comfort zones. All this is particularly disappointing after the promise of change that Mr Cameron once embodied.

The union at risk

The Conservative campaign has redoubled all this. Economically, the party offers more of the same, prioritising public-sector austerity which will worsen life for the most needy – imposing £12bn of largely unspecified welfare cuts – while doing little to ensure the rich and comfortable pay a fair share. Internationally, the party is set on a referendum over Europe which many of its activists hope will end in UK withdrawal. It’s also set on an isolationist abandonment of British commitment to international human rights conventions and norms, outcomes which this newspaper – unlike most others – will always do all in its power to oppose. At the same time, the Tories go out of their way to alienate Scotland and put the UK at risk. The two are related: if a 2017 referendum did result in a British exit from the EU, it could trigger a fresh and powerful demand for a Scottish exit from the UK. The Conservative campaign has been one of the tawdriest in decades.

The overriding priority on 7 May is therefore, first, to stop the Conservatives from returning to government and, second, to put a viable alternative in their place. For many decades, this newspaper’s guiding star has been the formulation offered by John Maynard Keynes in a speech in Manchester in 1926: “The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty.” The task on 7 May is to elect the parliament and government that will come closest to passing Keynes’s triple test.

Some despair of the whole system, believing a model created for two-party politics is now exhausted, failing to give adequate expression to the diverse society we have become. We are hardly newcomers to that view: we have demanded electoral reform for a century and believe that demand will find new vigour on 8 May. But for now, this is the voting system we’ve got. How should we use it?

To the charge that they enabled a government whose record we reject, the Liberal Democrats would plead that they made a difference, mitigating and blocking on issues such as Europe, the environment, child benefit and human rights, without which things would have been worse. That adds weight to the view that the next Commons would be enhanced by the presence of Lib Dem MPs to insist on the political reform and civil liberties agendas – as they did, almost alone, over Edward Snowden’s revelations. Similarly, it would be good to hear Green voices in Westminster to press further on climate change and sustainability. Where the real constituency choice is between these parties and the Conservatives, as it is between the Lib Dems and the Tories in the south-west, we support a vote for them. But they are not the answer.

In Scotland, politics is going through a cultural revolution. The energy and engagement on show are formidable – and welcome. The level of registration is an example to the rest of Britain. If the polls are right, and the SNP is returned as Scotland’s majority party, we must respect that choice – and would expect all parties that believe in the union, and the equal legitimacy of all its citizens, to do the same. We do that even as we maintain our view that, whatever myriad problems the peoples of these islands face, the solution is not nationalism. Breaking apart is not the answer: not in Europe and not in the UK. We still believe that the union rests on something precious – the social and economic solidarity of four distinct nations – and that is to be nurtured and strengthened, not turned against itself.

A sense of what is just

Which brings us to Labour. There have been times when a Labour vote has been, at best, a pragmatic choice – something to be undertaken without enthusiasm. This is not such a time. Of course there are misgivings. The party has some bad instincts – on civil liberties, penal policy and on Trident, about which it is too inflexible. Questions linger over Ed Miliband’s leadership, and whether he has that elusive quality that inspires others to follow.

But Mr Miliband has grown in this campaign. He may not have stardust or TV-ready charisma, but those are qualities that can be overvalued. He has resilience and, above all, a strong sense of what is just. Mr Miliband understood early one of the central questions of the age: inequality. While most Tories shrug at that yawning gap between rich and poor, Labour will at least strive to slow and even reverse the three-decade march towards an obscenely unequal society. It is Labour that speaks with more urgency than its rivals on social justice, standing up to predatory capitalism, on investment for growth, on reforming and strengthening the public realm, Britain’s place in Europe and international development – and which has a record in government that it can be more proud of than it sometimes lets on.

In each area, Labour could go further and be bolder. But the contrast between them and the Conservatives is sharp. While Labour would repeal the bedroom tax, the Tories are set on those £12bn of cuts to social security, cuts that will have a concrete and painful impact on real lives. Even if they don’t affect you, they will affect your disabled neighbour, reliant on a vital service that suddenly gets slashed, or the woman down the street, already working an exhausting double shift and still not able to feed her children without the help of benefits that are about to be squeezed yet further. For those people, and for many others, a Labour government can make a very big difference.

This newspaper has never been a cheerleader for the Labour party. We are not now. But our view is clear. Labour provides the best hope for starting to tackle the turbulent issues facing us. On 7 May, as this country makes a profound decision about its future, we hope Britain turns to Labour.

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Christianity, when properly understood, is a religion of losers

A thought for this Friday


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Christianity, when properly understood, is a religion of losers” was written by Giles Fraser, for The Guardian on Friday 3rd April 2015 11.00 UTC

When he was nothing but a suspended carcass, dripping with his own blood and other people’s spit, there were no worshippers around clapping their hands and singing their hymns. They were long gone. At the very end, ironically at the moment of greatest triumph, he had no followers left. That says something profoundly counterintuitive about what a successful church looks like. For if the core of the Christian message – death first, then resurrection – is so existentially full-on that nobody can possibly endure it, then a church that successfully proclaims that message is likely to be empty and not full. Which is also why, quite possibly, a successful priest ought to be hated rather than feted. For here, as elsewhere in the Christian story, success and failure are inverted. The first will be last and the last first. The rich are cast down and the poor are exulted. The true king is crowned with mockery and thorns not with gold and ermine.

Christianity, properly understood, is a religion of losers – the worst of playground insults. For not only do we not want to be a loser, we don’t want to associate with them either. We pointedly shun losers, as if some of their loser-ness might rub off on us. Or rather, more honestly, we shun them because others might recognise us as among their number. And because we secretly fear that this might actually be true, we shun them all the more viciously, thus to distance ourselves all the more emphatically. And so the cock crows three times.

But it is true. Deep failure, the failure of our lives, is something we occasionally contemplate in the middle of the night, in those moments of terrifying honesty before we get up and dress for success. Ecce homo, said Pilate. Behold, the man. This is humanity. And the facade of success we present to the world is commonly a desperate attempt to ward off this knowledge. At the beginning of Lent, Christians are reminded of this in the most emphatic of ways: know that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Those who used the period of Lent to give things up are invited to live life stripped bare, experiencing humanity in the raw, without the familiar props to our ego. This has nothing to do with the avoidance of chocolate and everything to do with facing the unvarnished truth about human failure. There is no way 100 top business leaders would endorse the cross. It is life without the advertising, without the accoutrements of success. It is life on a zero-hours contract, where at any moment we can be told we are not needed.

But here’s the thing. The Christian story, like the best sort of terrifying psychoanalysis, strips you down to nothing in order for you to face yourself anew. For it turns out that losers are not despised or rejected, not ultimately. In fact, losers can discover something about themselves that winners cannot ever appreciate – that they are loved and wanted simply because of who they are and not because of what they achieve. That despite it all, raw humanity is glorious and wonderful, entirely worthy of love. This is revealed precisely at the greatest point of dejection. The resurrection is not a conjuring trick with bones. It is a revelation that love is stronger than death, that human worth is not indexed to worldly success.

In a world where we semaphore our successes to each other at every possible opportunity, churches cannot be blamed for failing to live up to this austere and wonderful message. The worst of them judge their success in entirely worldly terms, by counting their followers. Their websites show images of happy, uncomplicated people doing good improving stuff in the big community. But if I am right about the meaning of Christ’s passion, then a church is at its best when it fails, when it gives up on all the ecclesiastical glitter, when the weeds start to break through the floor, and when it shows others that failure is absolutely nothing of the sort. This is the site of real triumph, the moment of success. Failure is redeemed. Hallelujah.

@giles_fraser

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UK must spend more on the vulnerable

Again this is very important and worth a wider audience. 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “UK must spend more on the vulnerable” was written by , for The Guardian on Monday 16th March 2015 19.53 UTC

Day in and day out, we work with hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children facing many difficulties like abuse and neglect at home or problems at school.  While the state currently spends nearly £17bn per year on social problems affecting children and young people, the support they get is often too little, too late. ncreasing early help for families should be a top priority. It will save millions of children from suffering needless trauma and will save money in the long run. 

We want all political candidates in the 2015 general election to commit to championing early support for children and families.

Our charities understand the pressures on vulnerable children and families. That is why we are committed to providing a range of services at an earlier stage that help children and families cope better with life’s challenges. But we can’t do this on our own.

By making a commitment to early intervention, politicians can help lead a real, lasting, cost-effective transformation to the lives of vulnerable children across the UK, now and in the future.
Sir Tony Hawkhead Chief executive, Action for Children
Javed Khan Chief executive, Barnardo’s
Matthew Reed Chief executive, The Children’s Society
Peter Wanless Chief executive, NSPCC

• We write as organisations working with children and pensioners, disabled people and those with long-term health conditions, in- and out-of-work families, and those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. We have sent a letter to the leaders of the three main parties calling on them to commit to restore the value of all benefits, and to maintain this in real terms in the next parliament and beyond.

The UK’s social security system provides essential support to many of the people with whom we work. It should guarantee their dignity, protect them against poverty, and enable them to have a basic standard of living. 

Adequate social security provision benefits all of society, not just those who rely on it at any one time. If we do not protect the value of all benefits, significant numbers of people will be unable to participate fully in society, an outcome that surely none of us desire.
Alison Garnham Chief executive, Child Poverty Action Group
Caroline Abrahams Charity director, Age UK

Heléna Herklots Chief executive, Carers UK

Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE Chief executive, Royal National Institute of Blind People

Jon Sparkes Chief executive, Crisis

Matthew Reed Chief executive, The Children’s Society
Javed Khan Chief executive, Barnardos

Mark Lever Chief executive, National Autism Society
Disability Agenda Scotland (six member organisations)
Jolanta Lasota Chief executive, Ambitious About Autism
Fiona Weir Chief executive, Gingerbread
Geraldine Blake Chief executive, Community Links
Howard Sinclair Chief executive, St Mungos Broadway
Sir Stuart Etherington Chief executive, National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Liz Sayce OBE Chief executive, Disability Rights UK
Rick Henderson Chief executive, Homeless Link
Aaron Barbour Director, Katherine Low Settlement
Andy Kerr Chief executive, Sense Scotland
Anna Feuchtwang Chief executive, National Children’s Bureau
Marcus Roberts Chief executive, Drugscope

• On 19 March I will protest against benefit sanctions with Unite Community outside the DWP, whose ministers are in denial about the link between suicide and sanctions. Most people are in debt when the sanction stops all their income. Debt is unavoidable because housing and council tax benefits have been cut leaving the remaining benefit incomes in work and unemployment to pay the outstanding rent, created by the bedroom tax and £500 benefit cap,  and the council tax, plus court costs and bailiffs fees. Otherwise the sanction forces them into debt because they have no money on which to survive. That is the trap set by parliament for honest citizens who feel obliged to pay their debts; some despair and many call on their GPs. The NHS is now to receive an extra £1.25bn for mental health services while the DWP is creating an ever greater demand for them. 
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

In answer to a parliamentary question by Stephen Timms MP, to the DWP, answered by Esther McVey MP, on how many people have been refused hardship payments since 2012, she answered that the information is not available. It is time that it was.
Gary Martin
London

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