The only predictable thing about 2013 is that it’ll be as unpredictable as 2012. We sail in uncharted political waters. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats seem reluctantly ready to renew their marriage vows, with rumour of an imminent ‘programme for Government part two’. But with another looming budget, a possible autumn spending review, difficult poll ratings and red lines neither side wants to cross, they might just be working on some fresh prenups too.
Pressure is mounting on ministers to deliver a range of pledges from economic growth, deficit reduction and youth employment, to social care reform and support for marriage in the tax system. And this year marks the introduction of Universal Credit – the much debated welfare reform. Universal Credit was designed by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) as a mass investment to tackle worklessness and to help the ‘working poor’. For all the inevitable challenges and its evolution under the Coalition, ministers say it will officially ‘go live’ in the autumn.
Across the despatch box, an increasingly confident Labour leader has Benjamin Disraeli on repeat, but he knows people want that translated into workable solutions for society, the economy and our politics – as his policy reviews have promised. And beyond Westminster, councils wrestle with further funding reductions while many poverty-fighting charities battle a worrying irony: never have they been so popular with Government ministers but so vulnerable to extinction.
The CSJ team will be on the road throughout 2013. Having commissioned Breakthrough Britain II, we’re travelling the length and breadth of the UK to find solutions to the deepest social challenges of our day. From family breakdown to the devastation of serious personal debt, we want to offer politicians game-changing ideas to transform lives and improve communities. All sides of the political community have committed to working with the CSJ when we present our plans, so be in touch with us if you want to play a part.
People across the country – old and young – are hoping for something radically different this year. Indeed all the talk of ‘One Nation’ tends to overlook the point Disraeli was making – that Britain is characterised by two nations. The poor and the rest. When our team goes to so many disadvantaged neighbourhoods we see how shamefully relevant that diagnosis remains. But to say it’s relevant is not to say it’s inevitable. Poverty and social breakdown are not inevitable. Every day we encounter unlimited potential and desire in those we have for too long left behind. And I hope the CSJ will play our part this year in speaking up for those who need a first chance, a second chance or a 50th chance in life.