Graham Allen on early intervention: why can’t the state let go?


I posted yesterday on the need for the state and church to work out their respective roles and stick to them.  Yet, on Saturday 18th Dec, Nottingham MP Graham Allen was interviewed on Radio 4 Today programme about early intervention and “a cross party strategy to help all our children reach their full potential.”  It seems unlikely that the state is going to let go of the nurturing role any time soon.

The idea is dubbed a “Family Nurse Partnership.” A state funded “health visitor forms a very strong bond with an individual mum, and her baby, who may not have inherited parenting skills from her parents and together they develop the baby’s social and emotional ability” Allen explained optimistically.

John Humphrys asked “what about the budget. There’s no money to pay for it.”  Ah yes, but if the money is spent on early intervention, then the little blighters will be able to read and write by the time they are eleven and then they won’t take drugs and rob people, so it will be money well spent, argued Allen.

It will not be money well spent.  Humphrys would have been better asking “how will strong bonds ever be built between well meaning professionals who parachute into a deprived community once a week?  How will dishing out their oh so clever middle class advice on developing bedtime reading and discipline and routine before jetting back to their comfortable life in a safe suburban community ever make a real and lasting difference?”

People don’t need more advice.  What people need is for others who love them and who live with them, to share their lives, rub shoulders, face struggles and joys together, to work as a community.  They need some good news which is greater than “we want your child to reach its full potential.”

It is not the role of the state to nurture people but why can’t it let go?  Is it because there is a latent Christian ethos of care for the vulnerable which pervades government attitudes?  Quite possibly.   But then the state needs to acknowledge this, back off and let the church spread and prosper.  The state must stop taking tax payers’ money only to squander it on well intentioned but futile social projects.  These projects only really act to alleviate the collective guilt of middle class ghettoisation but they do nothing to actually solve the problems of the objects of their social projects and national statistics.

The apostle Paul wrote:

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.  Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
1 Thessalonians 2:8-9

The nation needs a vibrant gospel-centred church not a nanny state.  Perhaps the state will recognise this once the church revives.

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2 Responses to Graham Allen on early intervention: why can’t the state let go?

  1. With a welfare system, the State has to pick up the tab for the failure of families whether socially, educationally or economically. There is always a cost. Not surprisingly the State wants to reduce cost by early intervention, at the expense of the sovereignty of the family or the church. It is an inevitable consequence, in my view, of a society that wants such a comprehensive welfare state.

  2. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Stephen, in my earlier post on big society I tried to argue that the state just gets on with picking up the pieces because people can’t imagine another model for the way things work. Until we can we’ll be stuck with a state sponsored utilitarianism.

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