Who’s responsible for ‘problem’ families misreporting?

18 July, 2012 – 15:21 — Owen Spottiswoode

The publication of a report by the Government’s ‘Troubled Families Tsar’ this morning has reopened old wounds about the scale and nature of the social problems caused by difficult households.

Ministers have been fond of claiming that 120,000 families around the UK are “in trouble or causing trouble”, and that these “neighbours from Hell” are costing the taxpayer as much as £9 billion.

However as we found, these 120,000 families aren’t necessarily those leading depraved lives, but rather those in difficult circumstances, suffering from a combination of low-incomes, poor qualifications or mental health issues. Attaching a £9 billion cost to these families proved even more problematic.

Undoubtedly Louise Casey’s review paints a bleak picture of families struggling with crime, addiction and domestic abuse, however it only considers the experiences of the 16 families she interviewed, not 120,000.

In fact, it only mentions the 120,000 figure twice in the whole report, and is careful to draw attention to the fact that her study actually tells us nothing about the situation that these families find themselves in:

“It must also be noted that this is not formal research and that these interviews and the information they gave us is not representative of the 120,000 families that are deemed as ‘troubled’.”

Novertheless today’s press release from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) seemingly ignores this advice and is quick to suggest a link between the two, with the first paragraph reading:

“Louise Casey CB has published a report highlighting the chaotic personal histories of the kinds of families who will be targeted as part of the Government’s commitment to turn around the lives of 120,000 troubled families by 2015.”

Sure enough, when we look at the stories that have appeared in the morning papers, several confidently apply the findings of Louise Casey’s report to all 120,000 families singled out by the Government.

The Sun reports:

“SEX abuse, violence and crime in 120,000 families from hell is exposed in a devastating official report today.”

Meanwhile the Daily Mail tells its readers:

“A hard-hitting report on 120,000 problem households reveals that those responsible for antisocial behaviour feature a high incidence of incest and sexual abuse, physical violence and a spiral of alcohol abuse and crime.”

Indeed the Mail goes further, using the report to draw conclusions far beyond those reached by Ms Casey, claiming that “incest and sexual abuse at heart of antisocial behaviour.” 

(The story was also covered, with varying degrees of accuracy, by: The GuardianThe Daily StarThe TelegraphThe IndependentThe Daily ExpressThe Timesthe BBCITV and Sky.)

This reporting is clearly wrong – Louise Casey’s study did not draw any conclusions about the 120,000 families – and we will be asking the papers concerned to correct the record.

However the mistake is understandable when you look at the information that journalists have been presented with by the DCLG’s press office.

The Civil Service code is explicit that those working for Government departments have a duty:

“to give Parliament or the Assembly and the public as full information as possible about their policies, decisions and actions, and not to deceive or knowingly mislead them.”

Similarly the Propriety Guidance given to Government communications teams requires that press officers are careful not to:

“Oversell policies, re-announce achievements or investments and claim them as new, or otherwise attempt to mislead the public.”

It is difficult to read DCLG’s press release without making the implicit link between the problems identified in the Casey report, and the 120,000 ‘troubled’ families.

While it is disappointing that not all journalists seem to have looked beyond the press release to the report itself, DCLG’s take on the story doesn’t seem to give reporters and the public “as full information as possible” on the facts of the matter, and we’ll therefore be asking the Department and the appropriate watchdogs to take a closer look at the press release, to ensure that the mistake isn’t repeated.

FULL FACT DOT ORG

Related posts: https://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2012/07/19/the-real-problem-with-these-families-is-that-theyre-poor-the-ulterior-motive-is-their-demonisation-with-the-aim-slicing-off-families-at-the-bottom-of-what-we-think-of-as-society/

https://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2012/07/04/black-triangle-allegation-of-a-serious-breach-of-civil-service-code-of-conduct-by-mr-terry-moran-chief-operating-officer-dwp/

Comments
  • Mike Caics July 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    No one cares enough about ‘mis-reporting’ anymore. The Levenson Inquiry will do nothing to improve Press Standards – which have fallen as far as they can at present. The BBC especially is already in the same position as it was the last time there was a Tory Government – lies, distortions, half-truths and deliberately misleading editorials designed to promote Government policies as being “fair and reasonable” – when they are anything but. Never mind the licence payer is duped into believing anything the BBC puports to be ‘Newsworthy.’ Never mind that, as soon as an Ex-Tory Minister becomes Director General of the BBC – the WHOLE of the BBC becomes a puppet-theatre to play out the ‘shadow -theatre production’ that is Ministerial Propaganda. Coupled with the devastating effect the Murdoch Newspapers (Yes: Him again! Central to the scandal about phone/webmail hacking, yet STILL PERMITTED to publish .. And, being the ‘good boy’ Murdoch is – undoubtedly so that the Levenson Inquiry ‘forgets’ about His and His Son’s INVOLVEMENT and overall AUTHORITY in the phone hacking scandal – not to mention bribing London’s ‘finest’ in the Met.) the WHOLE of the British Media has turned into one gigantic ‘Newspeak’ and an organ of propaganda Josef Goebbels himself would be shedding tears over!

    The mentality seems to be that ALL Governement wants the media to do (and it is doubtless there are some hidden reasons for the obedience of the BBC, ITV and SKY that are NOT in the domain of the Levenson Inquiry, but ARE criminal enough to be worthy of prosecution.. Yes I AM saying that Prime Minister David Cameron and the whole of the Coalition are essentially ‘blackmailing’ the Press and Media into staying silent or becoming actively complicit in their negative attacks on the “most vulnerable in Society” ie. those the Government swore to ‘protect.’

    The answers to many of the questions about “why” the Government has such a stranglehold on Press and Media Broadcasts and Editorials is simple. In the twisted minds and rare-atmosphere of Public School/ Oxbridge education – the ultimate expression of public disagreement with Government is to be found in events like ‘The London Riots.’ In their minds, every single person who is either unemployed, disabled, mentally ill or for some other ‘reason’ is NOT in full time education, training or some other form of employment is RESPONSIBLE FOR THE LONDON RIOTS.

    Yes. That’s right. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE – and YOU must be HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

    Dissent, public disagreement, protest and any word of public unrest must be treated like a ‘bush fire’ – and stamped upon and starved of the Oxygen of publicity or public knowledge.Through “ignorance becoming bliss” – this Government has patronized (almost out of public thought) the “Occupy” Movement. ALL other forms of protest have been yoked to the memory of last years ‘riots’ – in fact, almost ALL forms of protest have, since the riots,been criminalized. So a mixture of ignorance of ‘local issues’ and ‘National Protests’ – sandwiched with driving through (so-called) Austerity Measures (which only seem to affect the poorest and disabled) alongside other, far more threatening, far more Draconian Laws – whose effects will not be felt immediately and may, simply because of the ‘Bread and Circuses’ of the Olympics, slide under the radar of public awareness, may well be passed into Law with hardly a ripple of dissent or controversy.

    The popularity of singling-out, vilifying and publicly humiliating those at the lower echelons of Our Society is the perfect antidote to a previously “Politically Correct” social ‘blandness’ of Class Warfare and Social Identity ‘policies.’

    Fascism ALWAYS rises during times of Economic hardships. During this time, expect Problem Families to be identified over and over again as being a “drain” on resources, Public Money and Governmental time and effort. Not for nothing did the last Fascists identify a race of people the indigenous nation already had a “problem” with. The result being indelibly etched into the fabric of history.

    Misreporting “Problem Families” is the news means by which the Government makes the ‘rest’ of Society feel good about themselves: the delusion that Government is NOT talking about us ALL – and that THEY feel the SAME as US.

    They don’t. But while a stupid Nation slavishly wave flags, thinking it makes them British – this Government will defecate over every man, woman and child: particularly if they happen to also be poor!

    For now they are in ascendancy – but their fall will be horrible, terminal and as cruel as the misery they now delightedly inflict upon the Nation they each and severally swore to SERVE.

    Many of us will NOT live to see their destruction. I await their annihilation with pleasure.

    Only THEN will we see the ‘Problem Families’ of this Country for what they TRULY ARE. As vulnerable, stupid, uncertain, scared and conflicted as the rest of us…

  • Joanna Terry July 20, 2012 at 3:11 am

    @Mike I see it was the turn of the immigrants today. To see the way the press swing from feckless, disabled, unemployable scroungers to immigration on nearly a daily rota would be laughable if it weren’t so fcuking predictable and so very serious. We need to start printing for ourselves, very much like people used to in the past, doling out sheets to passer-bys, taking the mick and at the same time making some very serious points to counter-act the propaganda. I would be very happyto spend time in the shopping centre doing this but I would need some help in producing the stuff. Just an idea I’ve thought about often, we wouldn’t need much, a working computer, a printer and the paper and ink but mostly the talent to help formulate the debate and counter-arguments. Start small, think big.

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