Louise Casey, Baroness Casey of Blackstock
The Baroness Casey
March 2010 – March 2013
|Member of the House of Lords|
|Assumed office |
2 November 2020
|Born||29 March 1965|
Louise Casey, Baroness Casey of Blackstock,(born 29 March 1965) is a British government official working in social welfare.
She was the deputy director of Shelter in 1992, head of the Rough Sleepers' Unit (RSU) in 1999, a director of the national Anti-Social Behaviour Unit (ASBU) in 2003, head of the Respect Task Force in 2005 and the UK's first Victims' Commissioner in March 2010. She became director general of Troubled Families on 1 November 2011. In February 2020, Boris Johnson appointed her as an adviser to help tackle homelessness, and she was later appointed as Chair of the Rough Sleeping Taskforce. In July 2020 she was nominated for a crossbench peerage.
Casey grew up near Portsmouth, and was educated at Oaklands Catholic School, Waterlooville, which is a secondary comprehensive school now part of an academy trust. After working in a holiday camp and re-sitting her A Levels), she graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London with a degree in history.
Casey began her career with the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS), administering benefit payments for homeless people. She then worked for the St Mungo Association, a charity that helps homeless people. She became director of the Homeless Network in London, before becoming deputy director of Shelter in 1992. At Shelter she gained a reputation as an "ambitious, pragmatic worker who got results" and was largely responsible for the creation in 1998 of Shelterline, the country's first 24-hour telephone helpline for homeless people.
Rough Sleepers' Unit
Following the 1997 election, the Labour government in December that year created the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU), which had tackling rough sleeping as one of its priorities. In April 1999 the RSU was created and Casey appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair as its head, referred to in the media as the "homelessness czar". With an eventual budget of £200 million, the RSU's aim was to reduce the number of rough sleepers in England by two-thirds by April 2002. The RSU published its strategy in December 1999.
Casey triggered some controversy in November 1999 when she said the activities of some charities had the effect of keeping homeless people on the streets: "With soup runs and other kinds of charity help, well-meaning people are spending money servicing the problem on the streets and keeping it there. Even The Big Issue is perpetuating the problem." The editor of The Big Issue criticised her comments.
In November 2000, the government launched the RSU-led "Change a Life" campaign, which encouraged people to give money to homelessness charities instead of to beggars, following research suggesting that 86 percent of beggars used drugs. Casey said giving money to beggars was "misplaced goodwill". The donations hotline set up as part of the campaign was closed in March 2002, having collected £10,000, despite advertising spending of £240,000. The RSU achieved its target in November 2001, several months before the deadline, but allegations were made that they had used underhand tactics; Casey responded that they were false. With her work at the RSU finished, she became director of the newly created Homelessness Directorate.
Anti-Social Behaviour Unit
In January 2003, Casey became head of the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit (ASBU) at the Home Office. Introduced in 1998, an Anti-Social Behaviour Order is a civil order made against a person who has been shown, on the balance of evidence, to have engaged in anti-social behaviour.
Respect Task Force; crime adviser
In September 2005, Casey was appointed head of the Respect Task Force as part of Blair's "respect agenda", becoming known as the "respect czar".
The Respect Action Plan, launched in January 2006, was designed to deal with anti-social behaviour and problematic young people and families.
In December 2007, the task force was closed down, and Casey moved to another job involving community policing. Her review of "Engaging Communities in Fighting Crime" was published in 2008, being based largely on her contact with the public.
She recommended the requirement, introduced in December 2008, that offenders doing community work should wear fluorescent orange jackets with the words "community payback" printed on the backs.
In October 2009, while working as the government's neighbourhood crime adviser, Casey said that the justice system favoured criminals, and the public wanted a justice system that was not a "criminal's justice system".
On 30 March 2010, Casey was appointed to the post of Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses, created under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, whose objective is to "promote the interests of victims and witnesses, encourage good practice in their treatment, and regularly review the Code of Practice for Victims which sets out the services victims can expect to receive". As Victims' Commissioner, Casey said crime victims were treated poorly by the system, and suggested jury trials were unnecessary for many lesser offences.
Troubled Families programme
It was reported in September 2011 that Casey would work with Prime Minister David Cameron in dealing with the consequences of widespread rioting a month earlier, and she resigned from the position of Victims' Commissioner on 12 October 2011.
She became Director General of the Troubled Families Unit on 1 November 2011. The programme intended to focus interventions on the 120,000 most dysfunctional families to break the cycle of abuse. In July 2012 Casey published the Listening to Troubled Families report which featured 16 case studies following interviews with families about their situations. In a half-way report released in November 2013, the government stated that 22,000 families had been "turned around".
Casey left the programme in 2015, and an official evaluation by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) published in 2016 found that despite the £1 billion spent on the programme, it had failed to have any significant impact. In response Casey stated: "They had not, frankly, put any of the caveats in the public domain" and that "they have misrepresented their own research". NIESR disputed these statements.
Following the publication of a report by Alexis Jay on the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, Casey was appointed by Eric Pickles to lead the inspection of the children's services at Rotherham council. The Guardian reported on 10 September 2014: "In his written ministerial statement, Pickles says he has directed Casey to consider how the council exercised its functions on governance, children and young people, and taxi and private hire licensing.'"
Casey's report was published on 4 February 2015, and found that the local authority's child sexual exploitation (CSE) team was poorly directed, suffered from excessive case loads, and did not share information.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, said the local authority was "not fit for purpose", and announced proposals to remove its control from the councillors and give it to a team of five appointed commissioners. The Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said that his party had "let people down in Rotherham". However, Casey's report was also heavily criticised by social work academics in Community Care in March 2015:
- "There are troubling aspects of the report...the process by which it was prepared, in particular the lack of rigor [sic] and transparency in the methods used to gather and analyse data...This gap [in methodology] ...should concern us as it goes to the heart of issues of accuracy."
Review of community cohesion and extremism
After the end of the Rotherham report, Casey was asked to undertake a broader review of community cohesion and extremism. The report criticised the Home Office for a lack of strategy to integrate new immigrants into communities and to respond to extremism among Muslims.
The Review was finally published on 5 December 2016. The Review stated segregation and social exclusion are at "worrying levels" and are fuelling inequality in some areas of Britain. Women in some communities are denied "even their basic rights as British residents". The report described the plight of women in some Muslim communities, who were "less likely to speak English and more likely to be kept at home". Among Casey's recommendations were that immigrants could take "an oath of integration with British values and society" and schoolchildren be taught about British values.
In March 2018, while speaking on BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour, Casey suggested that, in order to encourage integration, the government should set a target date for "everybody in the country" to speak English. Conservative MP and former immigration minister Mark Harper welcomed the comments.
Rough sleeping taskforce
In February 2020 Casey was appointed by Prime Minister Johnson to carry out a review of the government's strategy to homelessness, which aimed to end rough sleeping by 2024. This work was redirected due to the coronavirus pandemic, and she is credited with arranging temporary accommodation for close to 15,000 rough sleepers as part of the government's Everyone In initiative. In May 2020 she was appointed to chair a specialist taskforce on rough sleeping, which worked with local authorities to prevent the return of rough sleeping as the lockdown lifted.
In August 2020 Casey announced that she had resigned from her government advisory role, including Chairing the taskforce stating that she wished to concentrate on her responsibilities in the House of Lords following her acceptance of a crossbench peerage the previous month.
International homeless work
Casey is the Chair of the Institute of Global Homelessness. She left the civil service in 2017 to help establish the Institute, with the aim of delivering an international solution to homelessness across the world.
Honours and assessments
Casey was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 2008 Birthday Honours and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to families and vulnerable people.
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- The RSU was originally created to deal with homelessness in London, and in September 1999 extended its activities to the rest of England. See: Cloke, Paul J; Milbourne, Paul; Widdowfield, Rebekah. (2002). Rural Homelessness: Issues, Experiences and Policy Responses. The Policy Press, p. 110.
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- "Victims' Commissioner". justice.gov.uk Accessed 6 September 2011.
- See also: Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 – Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses. legislation.gov.uk. Accessed 6 September 2011.
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