What are today’s social evils?
ANSWER: "ALCOHOL AND DRUGS" AND "DECLINE OF FAMILY"
Over a century has passed since the Joseph Rowntree Foundation identified poverty, war, slavery, intemperance, the opium trade, impurity and gambling as the "great scourges of humanity". Now it reveals the findings of a public consultation exploring the "social evils" facing the UK today.
The new list is the result of a web survey of 3,500 people and discussions with "groups whose voices are not usually heard". Overall concerns were identified as: decline of community, individualism versus feeling part of a wider society, consumerism/greed and decline of values. Below are key findings.
"CONCRETE, SOCIAL EVILS":
Decline of the family – family breakdown and poor parenting were felt to cause many other social problems and leave young people particularly vulnerable.
Drugs and alcohol – misuse of these was viewed as both the consequence and cause of many other social problems, like family breakdown and poverty. Addiction Today endorses this.
Young people as victims or perpetrators.
Crime and violence – people felt that the UK is more dangerous and violent than in the past; child abuse and exploitation were highlighted.
Poverty and inequality.
Immigration and responses to immigration – participants felt that local residents lose out to immigrants in competition for scarce resources; others criticised negative attitudes to immigrants.
MISUSE OF DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
Participants saw the misuse of drugs and alcohol as very damaging to society, mainly because of the links between substance misuse and violence, crime and antisocial behaviour. Drug and alcohol misuse was suggested as a cause of ill-health, poverty and family breakdown.
Conversely, drug and alcohol misuse was also described as a consequence of family breakdown, weak communities, child abuse, domestic violence, poverty, stress, unemployment and lack of opportunties for education.
Participants recognised that it could provide "a means of escape from social, economic and other personal problems". There was also concern that celebrities, films and TV can glamorise drug and alcohol use, especially among young people.
Many of these concerns were echoed in the personal experiences of the unheard voices: some older participants highlighted the damaging nature of drug-taking and the devastating effects drugs could have. Ex-offenders who took part in the research spoke about the links between drugs and crime in their lives.
WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCES THIS?
Most commonly cited as responsible for social evils were government and the media. The government was seen to be out of touch with the real issues people face, and ineffective at tackling social problems. The media was criticised for fuelling negative and damaging attitudes and behaviours. Big business and religion were also cited.
People also emphasised the importance of individual choice in causing and perpetuating social evil and stressed peoploe’s personal responsibility for overcoming social problems. Others blamed the structure of society, which can limit opportunities and underlie problematic behaviour.
Some participants suggested that social evils are entrenched in current ways of thinking and living, and that we are locked into a culture where consumerism and greed are prioritised over people and the community.
To download either the full or abridged reports, click here.