• >British Family life appears to be LESS prone to violence than in the 1970s, as reported in research re. children below. AND domestic violence seems lower, according to the British Crime Survey. 1)The British Journal of Social Work reports on work of Prof Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University. In his research he compared the numbers of violent deaths of children under 14 between 1974 and 2006. These had fallen from 32 to 17 per million children in England and Wales. In the USA these deaths had risen 2% to 47 deaths per million by 2006. In Germany the rate was 21 per million in 2006. Further details available on BJSW website at http://www.oxfordjournals.org 2) A British Crime Survey of Jan 2008 studied incidents of Domestic Violence in England & Wales.Male and Female victims of domestic violence reported that they had been victims of domestic violence, when asked if they had been a victim of a crime. There appeared to have been a marked reduction of app. 60% in these victims between 1995 and 2006. Bob Holland

  • >I saw some similar stats just last month in the Economist (feb 6th-12th pg 35 if you have one, if not you can access such articles online at economist.com/britain). It said that in fact Britain is not broken and that Cameron is playing on the current mood of Britain. It says that while for some "small pockets" social improvements may have been felt to a lesser extent, and drinking and drug useage has actually increased, "the evidence supporting the existence of a broken society is thin indeed." What I find interesting though is not the actual statistics but the fact that people generally think things have gotten worse. However much we blame the Tories we cannot credit them with the entire conjugation of the 'Broken Britain' myth. Do you think that the reason we think this is indicative of British character? After all we did the same thing in the Elizabethan age, Victorian age and at various other times in history. The similarity is that we are living through a time of enormous change. Or do you believe that there really is a lot more to this? After all there is a lot to be said for growing gangs, gang culture, escalating stress, mental illnesses, worsening deprivation in certain areas, and a 'Chav culture' that many people blame on Thatcher's policies.

  • >The lack of belief in these and other data is entirely due to the most right-wing Press in Europe, in which the ownership and editors mostly went to private schools. They believe that Bad News sells papers. Current pre-occup'n with Venables (the murderer of James Bulger) illustrates. There is nothing useful in the public being told what was nature of his offence for which re-called. The year-on-year lowering of rates of crime, incl. murders, violent offences for 5 or 6 years now wasbarely reported at all. It was a sub-para of a Cameron story re "Broken Britain" on BBC TV. The Sun & Daily mail did not mention it. The best thing is, that people read newspapers less and less. My Suggestions re. causes of improvement, apart from social workers working v. hard and co-operating v. hard with health, schools etc. ( My job for 6 years before I retired.) No 1 cause of improvement is probably "education", I suspect, and more enlightened parents. I think schools are far more civilised places than they used to be, and the university ethos of NOT being sexist, or homophobic or racist. It was common for manual working men to get drunk on Saturdays and go home to beat the wife in the 50s & 60s. I was there, I saw and heard the evidence, as social worker. No 2 cause would be smaller families, ie contraception & even abortion, which have gone along with women's rights. In large families many children lose out, unless wealthy or with vg aunts, grandparents etc, as the parents just cannot handle the stress. No. 3 cause is training for police, doctors, teachers-all of whom now know that social factors are major. But what do you think as one of this enlightened generation? There were plenty of gangs years ago,eg Teds, Mods & Rockers etc. Press NEVER picture any incident IN PROPORTION. Mental Illness is far better treated nowadays. This also I have seen for myself, as I was mental health specialist SW when i started. Old-fashioned treatment like ECT was barbaric, but all there was.Bob

  • >I think it a little harsh to just blame the press. Taboids such as the Sun, Mirror and Daily Mail are in my opinion awful, and overtly biased, as you say can be seen with regards to the Bulger case. Papers such as the FT (the one I usually read), the Guardian, Observer and Independent are a lot better, with the Economist magazine too. But many readers of these papers still think things have gotten worse. I agree with all your points, but in terms of numbers gang members are higher today, the number of people depressed is higher today, and I'm not sure about this but I'm pretty sure the numbers of homeless and sex-slaves within the UK is also higher today than it was 20 years ago. I also have experience with some of these areas, having helped many depressed people, and stopped more than one person committing suicide on more than one occasion. Treatment is absolutely better than it ever was. But numbers are still higher. Some people say that this is simply because more people are freely admitting they're depressed. But I do not think this sufficient. I have met few people in my parent's generation who understand depression, or have even met any depressed people. Yet everywhere I go I see people depressed. I used to find blood drying on the bathroom walls from where room mates had been cutting themselves in my university halls of residence. I have seen a girl of just nineteen years looking more like a zebra than anything else because of the amount of scars that cover her body. Now this could be an international problem. I have also met a depressed person in Luxembourg. Yet nevertheless it is a huge problem and needs more attention.

  • >Rob, I am very much struck by what you wrote about your fellow-students. Self-harm is immensely baffling. Freud said that one explanation for suicide is aggression turned inwards; sometimes this is a helpful concept. If there are now many who feel aggressive but can find no acceptable outlets, this might lead perhaps to some of the cases you describe. Certainly I find family instability is very distressing, and this remains too frequent. To be absolutely frank, I find the words "false Gods" keep coming to mind, eg the notion that appearance is important; insecurity about fashionable labels on clothes; imagining that "facebook" contacts are "friends"; spending money on children's toys-instead of talking to them and playing. Are these substitutes for actual, satisfying personal relationships?. Another escape is into alcohol/drugs, isn't it? Readers of "better" papers are still affected by similar values in the "quality" press, (eg pages about Tiger Woods in the Sports pages, as if his family disaster is any of our business.) These debased values of journalists are, thank heavens, not shared by the majority of folk. I think that a balanced reflection might lead to something like this: Families, employment, communities, have become far more unstable. Tremendous disparities in wealth, challenges to religious beliefs, changes in technology, housing tenure, international travel, mixing up races, drink and drugs, exploitation of sexual appetites for financial gain, have all been causes of stress in our society. However Britain and much of Europe are NOT showing so many symptoms of social failure as might be suspected, considering the strains within. BOB Holland(In 1968 I visited some families in deplorable slum housing in Edinburgh. There was one family in "a room & kitchen"-mum and 6 kids in these 2 rooms. Toilet and a place to wash themselves was shared on the common stairway. This was several stories up. No garden of course.)

  • >I agree. We are living through a time of immense change, and as more people move away from religion they find it difficult to fill the void of belief and community. However I don't see aggression so much as frustration and a 'relative deprivation' complex whereby people's hopes have risen beyond the life they find themselves inhabiting. In other words people hope to jump from A to C in a year. But if they find themselves only at B in a year then frustration is a distinct possibility. Another important reason (amongst the many) is biological. My research has led me to conclude that people have happiness 'set-points' and that in general emotions tend to fluctuate around this level. The level can move of course, and those who suffer the death of a loved one may never regain the set-point they previously had. But likewise it can also improve, and that's why I think even more focus needs to be given to psychological illnesses in the NHS. These things can sometimes be helped (not solved) with drugs and people need to know that. As you mention alcohol and drugs are an escape that is far too often used. I wrote this on 'My Ideas for Reform' (http://www.thebigqs.co.uk/Articles/Politics/Proposals%20for%20reform.pdf): "If you ask an addict why they take drugs they will probably say something along the lines of “the reason I do drugs is so I don’t feel the fucking feelings I feel when I don’t do drugs.” The drugs act as painkillers, and the first time someone uses heroin can feel like a warm hug; often the first bit of love they’re getting in their lives. Clearly this is a pretty powerful feeling, and it’s difficult to stop people taking drugs when what we’re doing is threatening to take away the one bit of love they ever received. But why do they feel like this? More likely than not they have had a very neglected and love free life. Nick, the person who gave this statement, had been repeatedly told by his father that he and his brother were “nothing but pieces of shit” Nick’s brother committed suicide as a teenagerand Nick became a lifelong addict. In 11 years of working with drug addicts Dr Gabor Mate (who works in Canada, but I think the point still applies) says he has met only 2 women who were not sexually abused as children. Those who were notsexually abused were neglected, abandoned and maltreated in multiple other ways. For in actual fact abuse and extreme stress shapes the human brain, and you can see this on brain scans. Depressed women who have been abused show different results to other depressed women who have not been abused. This is due to epigenetics: genetic changes that occur in response to our experience. For these people our present prison system is likely to simply reinforce their opinion of themselves that they must be flawed, terrible people to be experiencing what they are. What we need to give these people is a supportive environment within the prison where they can build relationships with other people, realise a sense ofachievement in gaining qualifications, and essentially replace the feelings given by drugswith real feelings of love and self‐worth. For these people this experience in and of itself willbe hell. But they cannot go through that hell by themselves."

  • >Quite enlightening, especially Bob's insight from an earlier generation.I like the point that less people are reading newspapers and that this might actually be a positive thing, however it's probably been replaced by more people watching 'reality' tv.It's kind of difficult for me as someone who has never lived in Britain to contribute to this debate, but as a NZer my image of britain was similar to the 'Jack & Jane' books used in primary schools. Red brick houses, fleshly ironed shorts, going to look at the trains, etc,.Obviously that was only a segment of british society at the time and it may be that nostalgia always works this way. So in that respect what the conservatives are promoting as 'broken britain' is just nostalgia revisited.Fast changing societies also create a split between people's thoughts about what things should be and what things are. And promotional media such as tourism boards etc often contribute to this by selling the idea rather than the reality.For example, british tourism ads will focus on selling the cotswolds and shakespeare and the westend, etc, etc, to tourists, but what awaits them when they arrive will be different and more multi-faceted.similarly when i lived in ireland, nz was accused by jealous workmates of stealing fijian players, like Sitivatu etc,. I always thought that there attitude was reflective of people whose image of nz was outdated. why should the nz rugby team be made up of names like fitzpatrick and mccaw and carter ?those names were from previous generations of immigrants. the majority of immigrants to nz in the last 20 years have names like Lomu, Wong, and Prasheesh.

  • >that should read 'Peter & Jane' and freshly ironed shorts

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