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Sin binned

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Outcast British families are to be thrown into "sin bins" till they learn how to behave in the community, according to the government.

Fifty-three Family Intervention Projects around the country will provide intensive social care for around 1,500 families a year. Some of them will be removed from their communities and housed in intensive units for round-the-clock-supervision under the government's Respect agenda.

The Communities and Local Government department did not say whether it had plans to tackle the other side of the problem for marginalised families - the communities that marginalise them.

A report on six pilots of the scheme last year found that successful interventions were ones that, in effect, provided troubled families with a surrogate community: where care workers listened, did not judge the families or deal them authoritative ultimatums, but did challenge them honestly about their social discordance, or "anti-social" behaviour, as it's called by Westminster.

In short, successful interventions earned respect, instead of demanding it. The surrogate communities could work without the families being moved from their homes into dedicated accommodation.

In today's announcement, the government justified moving families from their homes by the cost to the taxpayer. A troubled family could cost £350,000 a year in court, housing, social services, and other costs. The cost of intensive support was £8,000, or £15,000 to stick a family in separate housing.

Louise Casey, the government's coordinator for Respect, said in a statement: "Families that in the past may have been written off by agencies as 'lost causes'...now will be offered the right help and incentive to become decent members of their community and give their children the opportunity to grow up with a chance in life."

Last year's pilot report stated how NCH, the children's charity, had led the introduction of a "narrative way of working", which might help people who had been "marginalised and stigmatised by the processes of the current discourses on ASB".

In related news, Michael Meacher, MP for Oldham West and Royton, in setting out his manifesto for the leadership of the Labour party, said he would be "championing key groups now being marginalised". With prisons brimming full, the hardline approach isn't working, he said. Blair, meanwhile, was promising to get tough on gangs. ®

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