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25/07/2012

Duration:
43 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 25 July 2012

According to the government there are about 120,000 of them and they cost the tax payer - that's you and me - an estimated £9 billion in benefits, crime, anti-social behaviour and health care. They're problem families and Louise Casey, the head of the government unit tasked with doing something about them has not been mincing her words. She says the state shouldn't be afraid of telling mothers in large problem families of the damage they're doing to society and that they should stop having children. She's also reported as saying that society should be more prepared to talk about shame and guilt when it comes to the behaviour of problem families. The Troubled Families Unit will have a budget of nearly £450 million and a small army of social workers who'll be sent in to manage the lives of those deemed as being a problem to society. How you define a problem family and how many there are may be in dispute, but the moral question here is how far can and should the state interfere with family life? Louise Casey may be correct, but is it the job of the state to tell any of us when and how many children we should have? Are we demonising a group in society for no other reason than they're poor and inadequate? Or is our reluctance to make a moral judgement on the damage this group of people are doing to themselves, their children and wider society, part of the problem itself?

Chaired by Michael Buerk with Melanie Phillips, Claire Fox, Kenan Malik and Anne McElvoy.
Witnesses:
Professor Ruth Levitas - University of Bristol
Alexander Brown - Senior Lecturer in Social & Political Thought, UEA author of "Personal responsibility: Why it Matters"
Christian Guy - Director, Centre for Social Justice
Helen Dent - Director, Family Action.

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