The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) exists to put social justice at the heart of British politics. Advancing social justice is about identifying the root causes of poverty and providing a way out to those it affects. Our progress in life is often described as a journey up a ladder but, for some people, the very first rung of that ladder is out of reach. The CSJ exists to help those people.
Established in 2004, the CSJ is an independent think tank that studies the root causes of poverty and aims to address them through practical policy interventions. The CSJ’s vision is to give people in the UK who are experiencing the worst multiple disadvantage and injustice, every possible opportunity to reach their full potential.
The principles behind this vision are:
- A mandate for the whole of the UK, not just isolated areas;
- A focus on the bottom 20 per cent and those who, without external intervention, may never fulfil their potential;
- An agenda that is evidence-based, targeted towards long-term solutions, and harnesses the best grass-roots practice;
- A commitment to providing a route out of poverty via a hand-up, not a hand-out;
- A commitment to the transformation of lives, not just alleviating symptoms.
As leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith spent time in many of the UK’s most disadvantaged communities, with people whose lives were blighted by social breakdown and the poverty it created. As he later wrote:
“I encountered levels of social breakdown which appalled me. In the fourth largest economy in the world, too many people lived in dysfunctional homes, trapped on benefits. Too many children were leaving school with no qualifications or skills to enable them to work and prosper. Too many communities were blighted by alcohol and drug addiction, debt and criminality, many of them with stunningly low levels of life expectancy.”
Iain Duncan Smith
Many of these people had given up on politicians because they felt politicians had given up on them. The political process had become irrelevant in their lives; Westminster was failing to play its part in getting to grips with Britain’s deepest social problems. It was from this experience that Iain founded the CSJ, to bring practical political solutions to Britain’s social problems.
The CSJ delivers empirical, fully-funded policy solutions to address the scale of the social justice problems facing the UK. Our research is informed by expert working groups comprising prominent academics, practitioners, and policy makers who, collectively, bring vast expertise in relevant fields.
The majority of the CSJ’s work is organised around five pathways to poverty, first identified in our ground-breaking 2007 report, Breakthrough Britain. These pathways are interconnected and many people trapped in poverty experience more than one of these problems. Our work seeks to identify these issues and to help people escape the disadvantage that holds them back.
Since 2004 we have put forward more than 800 policy proposals, spanning more than 20 research themes, each of which are designed to make a transformative difference in people’s lives. Many of these have been adopted and implemented by government. Examples include:
Our 2008 report, Early Intervention: Good Parents. Great Kids. Better Citizens, provided evidence of how early intervention can break intergenerational cycles of under-achievement and multiple deprivation. It emphasised the importance of addressing cultural and material factors of a child’s home life by providing evidence that, by 11 years of age, it is often too late to make a substantial difference, whereas intervention in early childhood is most effective.
The report, co-authored by Labour MP Graham Allen, attracted crossparty consensus and was a vital precursor to the two subsequent Early Intervention Reports commissioned by the Coalition Government.
In 2009 the CSJ report, Dynamic Benefits, first made the case for a ‘universal’ benefit to create a ‘simpler, more cost-effective system that provides greater rewards for work’. This was the foundation for the Government’s Universal Credit policy that was introduced as part of the Government’s Welfare Reform Act 2012 and is currently being rolled-out across Britain.
In 2012, our paper Rethinking Child Poverty called for reform to the way child poverty is measured. It called for the Government to take into consideration more representative indicators beyond simply a relative measure of household income such as educational attainment and worklessness. These proposals are now included in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. Appropriate recognition and measurement of these factors will help to focus Government interventions on tackling child poverty at its root cause rather than merely treating the symptoms.
Our 2013 report, It Happens Here, shone a light on the horrific reality of human trafficking and modern slavery in the UK. As a direct result of this report, the government passed the Modern Slavery Act 2015, one of the first pieces of legislation in the world to specifically address slavery and trafficking in the 21st century.
In June 2015, the Prime Minister delivered a speech to the CSJ in which he cited the CSJ’s ‘five pathways’ as the principle drivers of poverty in the UK as he set out his mission to transform the lives of Britain’s poorest. Following this, in January 2016, he re-stated his mission to launch an ‘all out assault on poverty’. His speech on Life Chances once again focused on addressing the root causes of poverty, announcing funding for parenting and a new approach to treating addiction. We are currently working with the Government to provide expertise and input across different areas of policy.
We will continue to work with the Government – and indeed politicians from all major parties – to push forward ideas and policies that will promote social justice. Our past successes serve as a reminder of what can be achieved, as well as point us towards what remains to be done.