The recent cases of Karen Matthews in Yorkshire and Baby P in London shocked the country. They both revealed the deeply entrenched social problems in a section of society.

Children are being raised in households where nobody works or even tries to find a job. There are no structures or discipline, and little or no respect for formal education.

The life chances of these children are terrible. They are much more likely to truant from school, be unable to read and write, gain no qualifications, be unemployed, take illegal drugs and go to prison.

The Government is constantly playing catch-up, addressing the consequences (more police; more prison places; more drug rehabilitation) rather than the causes.

But, of course, there are no easy answers.

What is clear is the need for early intervention when children are still very young. Schemes like Taunton Deane Homestart, which mentors parents from disadvantaged backgrounds, are excellent.

Councils, community organisations and voluntary groups should be supported in finding innovative solutions.

And disadvantaged people need to have a stake in society. They should be required to improve their skills, encouraged to take more responsibility for their own finances and not regard welfare as a permanent option.

These social ills will take generations to tackle but we must embark on that serious journey now or the problems will remain.