Joining the rich and powerful scrum at Rugby won’t help young offenders | Letters

Pouring resources into one area of inequality will not tackle underlying issues, writes Alan Healey. Private firms are the reason for the problems, says David Beake, while Nick Moss writes that prison doesn’t work. Plus Simon Partridge on the damage done by boarding schools.When I read the title (Don’t lock up young offenders – send them to public schools, 18 September) my first thought was that Afua Hirsch was advocating that young offenders should be schooled in the crimes of the rich and powerful, but then I read on. She makes a powerful case for a more intelligent use of resources, but her analysis suggests only a partial solution.

In 1977 Sir Douglas Black, then chief scientist at the DHSS, was commissioned to chair a group to look at inequalities and health. The report, published in 1980, reached the common-sense conclusion that inequalities in income, education, housing and work were the causes of health inequalities. As the report says, “poverty remains the chief cause of disease, and it is a factor which is beyond the immediate control of medicine”. By the time it was published, James Callaghan had been replaced as PM by Margaret Thatcher. I was head of the DHSS private office at the time and asked Sir Douglas what he thought would happen to his report. He said it would probably gather dust on a shelf because the necessary actions were too difficult and costly for politicians to contemplate. This report was buried but its reasoning is as valid today as it was then.

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