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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often diagnosed in young children with behavioural problems. If left untreated, it can cause difficulties in adolescence and into adulthood.

Typical characteristics are a short attention span, difficulty in concentrating, and being easily distracted. Those with ADHD flit from one activity to the next without completing anything. They fidget, can’t sit still, and act impulsively. They may be disruptive and have limited social skills.

Sophisticated therapies are now available to help children with ADHD. Unfortunately, there is little available when governments exhibit similar symptoms, including an inability to finish a task; jumping from one priority to another; and compensating for a lack of direction with excessive activity.

The DCLG’s (Department for Communties and Local Government) housing and regeneration review may be a case in point. At least John Prescott had a clear idea of the kind of communities his department should be promoting. His successor seems more concerned about which bits of her department and its agencies should be responsible for which bits of work (which, if previous reorganisations have taught us anything, is a recipe for torpor).

Ruth Kelly talked this week of ‘an ambitious agenda to drive social mobility and economic inclusion’ and said it was ‘therefore vital that we get our delivery arrangements absolutely right, with clear, focused and accountable delivery chains’.

Now don’t get me wrong. We all love a good delivery chain. But when a department that started with a vision for neighbourhood renewal and followed up with a passion for sustainable communities sees its main focus as tinkering with delivery arrangements, something’s missing.

The lack of connection between the national strategy for neighbourhood renewal and the housing and regeneration review has already been noted. More worrying is the apparent evaporation of the energy and dynamism of a few years ago. Compare and contrast, if you will, with the verve and determination that marks the most effective social entrepreneurs.

If you feel this is unfair, consider history’s great reformers, from Thomas Jefferson to William Beveridge. Then ask: how many of them are remembered for their reorganisations?

Julian Dobson, editor, New Start Online magazine

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