Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brown's barbaric plans to stigmatise teenage mothers.

I'm going to leave others to rip to shreds Gordon Brown's claims on the economy and his new found belief in local Post Offices he made in his speech today. There's plenty of scope for an awful lot of shreds. Others can also comment on the number of Lib Dem policies he stole. Update: for a really good overall analysis of the speech, look at what our favourite Elephant has to say.)

I want to concentrate on one truly horrific aspect of what he said.

Over an hour on, I'm still actually shaking with shock at this sentence:

"From now on all 16 and 17 year old parents who get support from the taxpayer will be placed in a network of supervised homes"

Parents? In reality, that will be mothers, then, because they're the ones who generally claim the benefit. I don't know how much Gordon Brown knows about Biology but they don't tend to have sex on their own, or at least not the sort that results in babies being born. Here we have another crazy Labour idea which could result in the fathers of these babies carryng on life as usual while the girls they've impregnated are taken to be taught about responsibility. You couldn't make it up!

And while we're at it, does that mean that any 16/17 year old who claims either Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit, both of which are support from taxpayer, even if they have a stable home, will be dragged off to one of these "supervised homes" against their will?

I don't know whether Brown was trying to lovebomb Tom Harris MP who was the sole backbencher to call for him to go at the febrile Labour Parliamentary Party meeting after the disastrous Euro and local elections this year. Earlier this year, I had a bit of a go at Tom after he advocated what I felt was a return to the Dark Ages on this issue. At that time I felt that he was a bit of a lone voice in Labour but now it seems that Gordon Brown has morphed into Iain Duncan Smith lite too.

There are plenty reasonable, fair and effective ways to reduce teenage pregnancies - raising the self esteem and reducing the sexualisation of young women; accessible information about contraception; education for all teenagers, girls and boys. Ultimately, though, they are always going to happen - teenagers always have had sex and always will and no form of contraception is infallible. I don't think that effectively locking up young girls is a constructive way forward - in fact, it's a return to the days when unmarried mums were hidden away and whispered about, their lives ruined.

Brown's idea s a shameful, desperate play for the Daily Mail vote. I hope that enough Labour MPs have the backbone to make sure that it never becomes a reality.

The last word will go to the wise Will Howells who summed up the policy on Twitter like this: "Mothers, lock up your daughters, because if you don't we will."

UPDATE: (already) Paul Waugh has some more information on the plan. The last sentence of his piece is very scary indeed:

"I suspect the Tories will be delighted that the political space has now been carved out for them to perhaps go even further."

UPDATE: (a bit later on) I basically reported the facts and my general horror. Stephen, Jennie and Charlotte have all tackled this with great originality and persuasiveness and their posts are well worth reading.


Neil said...

The ghost of Norman Tebbit stalks British politics.

subrosa said...

Thanks for the link to Paul Waugh Caron. So it appears these 'homes' are already around and they're going to build more.

If the policy was working in any way they wouldn't have to build more because less teenagers would be getting pregnant wouldn't they?

I do think something has to be done - so many babies born to many who have no idea of the responsibility of a child or children.

They also have no respect for themselves these girls so how can they have any for a child?

Society is in such a mess with regard to young people having irresponsible sex that it's going to take generations to return to family values as I know them.

Education doesn't work so what do we do? The main parties hand these youngsters money - money for everything and a jump up the housing ladder to boot. Forget about the pensioner who needs a council flat because their savings have all been used up on the cost of living or have lost their savings, the babies of these teenagers come before everyone.

I see young girls pushing babies around my small town in the best of buggies - something I was unable to afford for my own, but taxpayers supply.

They live in council homes where furniture, decoration and white goods are also supplied by the taxpayer.

For the first time in my life I was able to furnish some of my home with NEW furniture - as a treat for my 60th birthday.

I repeat what I've said before on this subject, I have no wish to return to the dreadful stigma of Victorian times where the mother was horrifically punished for something which involved two and the other party suffered nothing.

But I do think there has to be a balance. In my day there was no pill, no contaception advice and it was well known that shame would be brought upon your family and yourself if you got pregnant. THAT was our contraception.
No taxpayers' money was given to you but did the babies suffer? No. The mothers suffered for the rest of their lives though because many gave up their babies for adoption.

Perhaps we need to get back to some sensible values where girls, who have always had to take responsibility for sex and it will ever be so, are taught it's shameful in this day and age to get pregnant.

I won't rave on, I'm becoming too angry at the stupidity of the parents of these lassies too. Mistakes happen of course, but we have a social class of young women/girls bringing up children these days when they've not been parented themselves.

What's the solution? To continue as we do?

LJH said...

When I find myself having to listen yet again to the same tired old nonsense about feckless, irresponsible girls getting everything for free off the taxpayer, here is the question that always comes to me.

Even supposing that your entirely anecdotal assertions are right, that they *are* irresponsible, that they *are* receiving the unlikely level of assistance that you seem to assume, even that they got themselves knocked up deliberately in order to get a council home (because you undoubtedly know someone who knows someone who works in the housing department and can PROVE this DEFINITELY happens.)

If they are punished, stigmatised or denied housing and support, who pays the price in terms of damaged life chances?

Answer: The child that you hypocritically claim to be so concerned about. This is so obvious that it is laughable.

And you should be aware that the removal of babies for adoption in the 60s caused untold pain to the mothers who gave them up and often to the children who were raised apart from their biological families.

So just spare us this "think of the children" nonsense. It isn't fooling anyone and serves to reveal a set of the most unpleasant prejudices - nowhere so much by claiming that babies should be removed to "nice" families.

Young women, especially from disadvantaged or working-class backgrounds, need to be provided with the tools to take control of their own lives, as Caron says. Education, contraception, assertiveness and self-esteem.

They don't need even more whining or hand-wringing from those who think it's their right or duty to control them, their fertility or their economic activity.

Foregone Conclusion said...

Teenage pregnancy rates have been slowly declining over the past decade. So why the big fuss now?

In Victorian Britain, one quarter (I think) of children were born less than 9 months into marriage, the implication being that they were conceived before, and that there was a rush to the altar because of it. My grandfather was one of these children, and his sister another. In those days, the man in question suffered the stigma as badly as the woman if he refused to 'do the decent thing' (if his identity was known, of course). So, let's not listen to any more bullshit about the halcyon times of Christian virtue - they now seem rather restricted to the period between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the eeeevil 1960s, if they ever existed at all.

To me, this is emblematic of how Labour's approach to social justice has changed since 1997. I was reading an obituary of the civil servant who implemented SureStart recently (Norman Glass was his name). He was determined not to make it, in his words, "just another initiative by Whitehall to do something about the feckless proles", and that 'what he had learned from visits to successful early-years programmes and local communities was that it was necessary to fully involve local people.' Ten years on and we have a similar approach to what Glass was desperately trying to get away from. If Gordon Brown really wants to increase the support for these young women, I might suggest offering council houses to them and their families wherever possible, expanding the social work network, and so on. This would be a lot more helpful than two years in an institution.

Observer said...

I did work in the Housing Dept for years and I never met one young lassie who had got herself pregnant deliberately to get a house. That is a myth, the same as we give houses out to asylum seekers and indigenous people don't stand a chance. But it's something you always hear.

Having said that, I did deal as a homeless caseworker with numerous young girls who were pregnant, and a lot of them really couldn't cope. There were a *few* supported housing projects which took them in and provided support with not only child-rearing but with budgeting, cooking, housekeeping, life skills that none of them really had.

For a certain group of ''teenage mums'' a placement in supported accommodation would be fantastic both for them and their children. Sadly I don't think that's what Gordon Brown is meaning as he is playing to the ''moral majority'' here.

Anonymous said...

This isn't necessarily just about teenage pregnancies, the whole issue is about people having more children purely to get more money from the state and have an excuse not to work for their money. Mostly it's single women but there are a lot of couples who do this too. Stronger financial measures are needed to ensure that people don't have a load of kids on the state that they could never afford otherwise such as benefits for one child only (and after that you're on your own) but if you are married and are working you can get additional child benefit for further children through a tax allowance for either the wife if she's working or the husband if she isn't. No benefits for absent fathers who don't work either. The perilous state of the economy cannot afford for softly softly appoach any further.


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