I think I must be an addict. There's no other rational explanation for my enjoyment of the BBC programme, Waterloo Road. It's far from realistic. In case you don't know, it's basically a soap set, not in an East London square, but in a Rochdale comprehensive school. Never has there been a school where so many teachers have children in the school or so many affairs or with such a high turnover of headteachers; nor where teachers arrive and leave at the same time as pupils - in fact if you want to find out about schools it's the last place to look. But this last episode did have lessons germane to child benefits, or rather the crucial nature of investing in families - and I don't necessarily mean in monetary terms.
The Fisher family (the headteacher's), for example, is quite disfunctional. The parents are at loggerheads; one daughter has disappeared; the other daughter is in rebellion and the son is bullied and bulimic. But it doesn't end there, as other students get drawn in, of whom one, Vicki, is left homeless at the end of the episode. The parents are so absorbed in their work and their mutual antagonism that they are oblivious of the havoc they are causing in their children. And the point is that it is extends way beyond the nucleus of the immediate family. It's actually rather a good study of the complications of family life. Clearly there's more than enough income in the Fisher family for them not to need any benefits. Their problems are nothing to do with money, but to do with communication and relationships.
I must say it's good news that NICE has approved the use of drug treatment for the early stages of Alzheimers'. It's a welcome indication of investment in caring for those of us with incurable illnesses. In all the hoohah about public-sector pensions I suddenly had a sideways reflection on the economics of state pension provision, and that was this: the cost of palliative care for those with shortened life expectancy should be offset against the saving in an 25+ year pension bill. In an interview with Lord Hutton this morning, I heard the striking fact that the average life expectancy is 88. In other words, euthanasing the terminally ill can't be justified on economic grounds because we already save the exchequer.