Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Family Policy, Labour just doesn't get it!

We have, for a while now been hearing the Conservative party speak on both family issues, social justice and indeed youth crime.

In some ways a common factor has been that children do better, in fact far far better if they grow up in a married family than any other alternative. The statistics speak for themselves. That said what they do not say is whether the problem is couples not getting married, or the couples who have children. After all there whilst there may be a relationship, it does not mean a causal link. (For example global warming has happened in an inverse relationship to the decline of piracy, ergo we can cure global warming with more pirates. See here.)

Well the Observer has this article suggesting a split in cabinet over marriage. Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary apparently has come out backing single parent families. Fantastic. On Tuesday he will be giving a speech to Relate. Some choice quotes are:
'Family policy should not be based on the prejudices of yesterday's generation' or hung up over whether parents are married or not, but focused on what children need.

"It's the parenting, stupid"

Really? If it is focused on what children need, then time and time again the studies show that children need both biological parents. They tend to do better. In fact much better. This is not about bashing single mothers, or indeed the increasing number of single fathers, this is not about bashing people who have split up or got divorced. What family policy does have to be about is recognising what works and works well, and supporting it, and no, not just through tax breaks, but by creating a positive view of marriage in society, school, the tax and benefits system (so that it does not discriminate against) and perhaps rather interestingly our divorce courts which seem to punish men who are getting divorced even if they are at no fault and did not want the divorce in any case.

Talking about the prejudices of the past isn't helpful either. The wheel is an old idea, seems to still work now. Families are an old idea, they still work now.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I don't know what I think ! Living in Italy, where families "eat together and stay together" [usually] there does seem to be less disaffection among the young and at least in this area you can walk down the street at night without fear if a group of youths comes towards you. Yet, as a single woman, I can't help feeling that the "genuinely single" are punished, fiscally and socially, for their status in the UK; and I can't help feeling that that is because we are a "disturbance" to governments that like people to be in nice pairs because that is less likely to create trouble. I've just finished reading "Winter in Madrid" and was reminded of how the first thing [OK, second thing - they gain control of the media first] right-wing dictatorships do is try to "control" people back into family groups, not allowing non-married heterosexual couples to touch each other in public and even dictating what they should wear. And yet... I am ambivalent about it because, having been adopted myself and being grateful for that "chance" in life, I see so many cases where it is assumed that to have a family is a "right", whatever your circumstances - and it isn't! [Ooops- sorry - I've gone on a bit here.]

Benedict White said...

It's a difficult one isn't it?

Personally I can't see single people being out of place, except when it comes to talking about family things.

However clearly a strong family system keeps society together.

We in the UK need to recognise that.

Having said that, we also need to be careful not to stigmatise people.