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Kathy Gyngell: Big Mother concedes £1 billion later her families are just as troubled


I am an incurable romantic, so I had to go see Bridget Jones’s Baby. Would it all end happily ever after? I needed to know. Would this silly girl, so appealing because of her vulnerability, a girl that feminism was doomed to fail, fall into the embrace of the man of her dreams – the divine Mr Darcy?

Well, of course, she did. Never mind that luck, in spades, was on her side.

Movie moguls are not stupid. They know what women really want. Unlike politicians they do not argue with their market.

Whatever lip service has to be paid to gender politics at the Oscars, whatever the equality platitudes they spout, Hollywood’s inane celebrities live in the same eternal hope. They never cease trying the institution out. Marriage dreams sell.

Unfortunately life (outside of the Clooneys) does not imitate art. The last time I heard of two men vying to be the father of a baby, it was two gay men over a designer baby in their surrogate’s womb. ‘Mine’ rather than ‘my duty’ the story screamed out.

Few babies are as lucky as Bridget’s turned out to be. Far from having their fathers compete over them, too many will never know who their fathers are – let alone have fathers who are married to their mothers, or mothers who stay with their fathers.

The grim truth is that 47.5 per cent of babies born outside marriage today are doomed to this uncertainty compared with just 6 per cent in 1960.

Quite some revolution in childrearing, I would say.

Of course, the figures reflect the fact that more children are born to cohabiting couples, a state so ‘normalised’ that governments fight shy of addressing this catalyst of future social problems. Yet cohabitees tend to be younger, less financially secure, more likely to be in social housing and much more likely to break up (with the attendant risks for them and their children) than married couples.

But they also reflect the rise and rise of single parenthood  – another contemporary norm – translating to a quarter of British children raised by single parents, 1.9 million of them, ninety per cent of whom are lone women.

The cause? Well it was the revolution in culture and attitudes that reached its zenith between 1985 and 2001, part liberal, part Marxist feminist, aided and abetted by government as it retreated from any tax support for marriage.

Under the steely gaze of La Toynbee and the Harperson and according to their Marxist feminist tenets, lone parenthood has been institutionalised as an inequality issue – gender and economics equally to blame.

At all costs lone parents must not stigmatised – no more of irresponsible mothers and feckless fathers language. They must be supported.

This ‘all lifestyles are equal’ approach remains entrenched in government to this day.

All negative social data had to be viewed through a prism of ‘discrimination’ theory to escape condemnation – especially if you were a Tory, to detoxify yourself.

‘Thou shalt not judge’ remains the mantra, whatever the cost to children, however many more, year on year, get taken into a care system that may serve them little better than their unreliable parents.

The outcome? An entrenched underclass, more ‘troubled families’, and more children taken into care. No matter how hard successive governments have played to that left wing tune, ‘lifting children out of poverty’ with working tax and child credits and child care credits to boot (for which the annual bill had reached £34 billion by the time the Coalition took office in 2010) nothing budged.

So a new solution was sought – early intervention and work. If Sure Start’s nationalisation of child rearing plans did not quite provide the kick start its infants needed or catalyse their mums to work, a bit more intensive intervention would surely do the trick?

The State’s (New Labour’s) new Big Mother, Louise Casey rose to the challenge and another job thanks to David Cameron (remember him?) as Director General, no less, of Troubled Families.

The great intention was to “change the repeating generational patterns of poor parenting, abuse, violence, drug use, anti-social behaviour and crime in the 120,000 most troubled families in the UK”. Of course, it was. The Government committed to invest some £4,000 per family over 3 years, and gave each family its  assigned family worker” to do the business.

When, by June 2013,  nothing much had changed, the Government came to the conclusion that the problem was that more – 400,000 – such families needed this intensive help.

The financial justification was that ‘payment by results’ (a much loved wheeze of Oliver Letwin) would recoup savings  in police time, health and social services. Where had I heard that before? Ah, I remember, that is how the Coalition’s billion pound newly branded drugs recovery policy was justified. The Civil Service is never happier than engaging in spurious cost benefits exercises.

Well the troubled families’ savings followed in the path of drugs ‘recovery’payments by results. No costs, whether to health, crime or unemployment, have been saved as the ‘clients’ continue to be maintained in their troubles by a bevy of social workers and their ‘services’.

This is not me being cynical, it is the assessment of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

This £1.3bn government programme to tackle entrenched social problems has had no discernible impact on unemployment, truancy or criminality it says.

Back in 2014 Casey acknowledged: “As hard as it is to accept ….we just haven’t got it right. We just haven’t succeeded in getting these families to change or in stopping the transmission of problems from generation to generation – we just haven’t.”

Well how would they when they ignore the root problem?

The accruing evidence, at least for Britain and the USA, is that children born to cohabiting parents and to mothers not in a partnership when they have their baby have less advantaged lives than their contemporaries who are born to married parents. The lesson could not be clearer. Discourage single parenthood and cohabitation.

But for the last 30 years governments, contrary to putting children first as they claim to do or demanding some restraint of parents, have refused to countenance the very policies that would be in children’s best interests.  Nor have they grasped how  their quasi-liberal thinking has selectively punished the poor. They might note that Bridget’s wonderfully louche, libertarian and foul-mouthed friends all ended up married as well as she –  church weddings and christenings to boot. Of course, they did, they were middle class and untouched by their ideologies.

So in the thrall of this politically correct, Marxist feminist ideology ministers and their officials are incapable of framing policies that would stop encouraging baby first, work maybe and marriage never – never mind replacing them with a ‘work first, marriage second and baby last’ policy.

(Image: Laurel Harvey)

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngell
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @kathygyngelltcw on GETTR and is back on Twitter.

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