The Open Manifesto on Social Policy
Social policy has up to now been informed more by prejudice and rumour than by evidence. To a large extent it has failed. Local authorities, responsible for the provision of social care and the implementation of social policy, face problems that simply cannot be addressed by the knee-jerk system of policy-making driven by the popular media. The evidence speaks volumes of the failure of social policy. It is scandalous how great a proportion of the prison population consists of people who grew up in care (and, equally scandalous, how many prisoners are ex-servicemen and women). This is a failure of social policy on a massive scale, and a lack of resources is largely – but not wholly – to blame. There is a significant subculture within our urban and suburban communities in which deprivation and abuse (of people and substances) are tolerated and even condoned. We do not accept that these problems are intrinsically intractable; we must dispassionately assess the evidence – in particular, arising from pilot schemes across the country where positive results have been achieved – and push for evidence-based implementation of reform.
Crime Reduction and Prevention
We will base our crime policy on evidence, aiming to reduce crime and in particular recidivism. Recidivism is a clear failure of crime policy.
We will change the rhetoric surrounding crime and punishment, and we will remove the victim from equations of justice. Justice is not revenge; punishing the offender – however harshly – can never redress the injustice suffered by the victim. It is dishonest and misleading to attribute justice to the victims of crime.
We will remove the judiciary from the administration of sentencing. Judges and magistrates will decide on the severity of sentences, taking into account the severity of the crime and any mitigating circumstances, but the prison and probation service will decide how sentences should be served – whether it should be by incarceration, community service or some other form of punishment. The performance of the prison and probation service will be assessed primarily on the levels of recidivism over time, and a bonus scheme for prison and probation staff will be introduced which will reward more highly those prison and probation officers whose charges reoffend less.
Drug abuse (including alcohol).
Nowhere is the triumph of prejudice over evidence more apparent than in the continuing problem of drug abuse. The evidence is overwhelming that the drug of abuse that causes the most damage to society and to the economy is alcohol, and it is hypocritical to refer to “drugs and alcohol”. Alcohol is a drug, and it should be referred to as such. Alcohol is a legal drug, cannabis, heroin and ecstasy are illegal drugs, but they are all psychoactive drugs often used recreationally and capable of serious abuse.
Yet all drugs are different in their effects on society and on the body of the person abusing them. The present system of drug classification, in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, is failing. We will pursue a drug policy based on harm reduction, (in line with our overall goal of making things better) and we will assess the effectiveness of our policy against identifiable measures, including:
- reducing the number of deaths and serious illnesses attributable to drug abuse;
- reducing the level of drug-related anti-social behaviour;
- reducing the working time lost to drug abuse; and
- reducing the number of people who abuse drugs.
Prohibition, licensing and rehabilitation are three of the policy tools we will use.
Guns, knives and dangerous dogs
We will conduct an evidence-based review into legislation concerning the sale and possession of items used as weapons for intimidation or the carrying out of crimes, including guns, knives and dangerous dogs.