In the 1980s Charles Murray, a new right thinker, stated poor educational attainment and an increase in crime rates was partly due to a decline in traditional family values and the rise of single mothers. Over the intervening thirty years the problems identified by Murray still exist.
It has been suggested some young girls choose to have children because they wish to experience the unconditional love they were denied in their own families. Others see children as a way to claim more benefits. Of course this doesn’t apply to all families or single mothers as the decreased stigma against lone-parent families allows parents to escape abusive partners without being excluded from society, as they would have been in the 1940s/50s.
Louise Casey, head of the Government troubled families unit, claims it is irresponsible for families to continue having children when they already can’t cope. She calls for harsher treatment to curb the habit of problem families having too many children (a fifth have more than five). Casey visited the country’s top 16 problem families who cost the tax payer £200,000 a year. She says that although we need to help these families, we shouldn’t use the “soft-touch” approach.
Now, I don’t usually agree with the right-wing point of view, but in this case it makes sense. Obviously “soft-touch” policies haven’t made a difference, so a new, harder alternative must be found.
I remember a few months ago, I saw a TV programme about social care for children and there was one woman who had already had one child taken away from her (now in the care of the mother’s mother) and was fighting to keep a second child. She was allowed to see her baby girl three times a week under supervision and if she proved she, and her partner (not the father) could stay off drugs and find work they could have the baby back. It all seemed to be going very well, with both of them co-operating with the social workers. However, in the end the little girl went to live with her grandmother and sister. To make matters worse, the woman was pregnant again and was yet again preparing to fight for custody of this baby.
From what I saw she seemed to be a good person – not violent or anything – but she just couldn’t stay off drugs or find the motivation to find a better life with her children. Personally I can’t understand this. Casey is right, these parents need to think about the child they’re bringing into the world and not be so selfish.
Am I being to harsh? Are these families just stuck in a rut so deep they can’t see a more rewarding future? What can be done to stop problem families having more children, short of neutering them?
Being more strict on benefits could help. On the other hand, cutting benefits to single mothers is probably not going to deter these women from getting pregnant for purely selfish means. It will only punish the women who work hard to bring up their children and provide for them on their own. Also, there was talk in the papers about women having to pay to have the child’s father found and made to pay child care contributions themselves. This is not right, won’t it only encourage more unwilling fathers to disappear and leave their children without a backwards glance?
What’s the solution to this issue which has lingered for over thirty years?