Yesterday, the BBC reported a new low in British social welfare. Its research revealed no less than 23,000 babies of just 7,000 mothers had been taken into care over the last seven years – more than three babies per mother.
Second, third and even fourth babies taken by the court into care, we heard, was not unusual. “Unusual” was reserved for cases involving a 10th or 11th successive baby. Extreme cases – two on the record book so far – were where judges had ordered the removal of the 15th child of the same mother.
Yes, it did make for shocking and disturbing listening as Today’s presenter James Naughtie had warned; not least was the almost casual catalogue of newborn ‘limb deformities (missing digits, fingers and toes) irritability and struggling to feed – consequences that a community midwife reeled off to a group of drug- and alcohol-abusing mums to be.
This was 21st Century affluent UK under discussion, not a South American slum. What a far cry from what shocked the nation in the Sixties and provoked a far stronger reaction. ‘Cathy Come Home’ was the outraged Ken Loach portrayal of the iniquity of a system that took the babies of homeless married mothers into care.
So it is somewhat ironic that it was Ken Loach’s caricature of harsh, moralistic and judgmental social workers that set today’s ‘moral’ non-judgmental scene that’s spurred the exponential rise of young, single and, by definition, incapable multi-mums
He turned necessary social taboo into the only social taboo today. Thou shalt not judge.
For outcast ‘Philomenas’ these mothers going through the courts today are not. They are not young Judy Denches, victims of religious intolerance and cruelty. On the contrary, they are the products of an equally uncaring but over-liberal society; the brutal outcome of three decades of selfish social liberalism, collapse of the family and its inevitable concomitant – ever more state intervention.
Their plight is a prime example of what Laura Perrins is currently castigating so-called Conservatives for: ignoring the costs of their socially liberal behaviour, which leaves them in no position to resent or reject tax payer-funded bailouts for women such as these.
Needless to say this was not Today’s theme.
“What”, James Naughtie asked of the ‘expert’ psychologist advising the family courts, “do these figures say to us?”
“They tell us,” came the reply, “there is a group of women who get trapped in a cycle of difficulty in their lives which leads to their children being removed and then the removal of the child adds to their difficulties and makes them more likely to have another child to replace the one they have lost and these children too will be removed…”.
The irony of this tautology – that these ever more expensive cycles of decreasingly effective interventions, (in which the women were already trapped) was the solution being advocated on the programme – was lost on Mr Naughtie.
So no questions asked about who these women are – their relationships or absence of them, whether they were fatherless or multi fathered? Predictably, men did not come into it. Neither the words ‘man’ nor ‘father’ were mentioned. Nor was the collapse of sexual restraint and any vestige of responsible behaviour – it was put down to drink and drugs. Yet one mother interviewed did say : ‘They need to be told they are in the wrong not the right’.
Conversation was about the need for contraception, that byword for state intervention. Never mind that 30 years of free availability has patently failed in its preventive mission.
This is not to minimise the task that faces social workers; it is to criticise the pundits and experts who are paid to think.
Under their non-judgmental dictate and their remit to manage these so-called ‘families’, the social worker’s task is all but impossible.
It is riddled with dishonesty, starting with the myth these women and their absent children are families, as the psychology ‘expert’ described them, which they clearly they are not, traducing the concept of family in the process.
They are young women who risk and humiliate themselves in disparate and loveless sexual encounters or set ups with equally uncaring, irresponsible men or boys on the basis it is okay (after all who stops them?). They think (correctly) that ‘social services’ or ‘the local authority’ will ‘support’ them and that such (taxpayer funded) support, while inevitably disappointing, is their right.
It is not their fault. It’s the fault of those bleeding heart middle class liberals like Polly Toynbee who insist for feminist reasons that single motherhood is a right, that it’s the role of the state to provide the sticking plasters such status necessitates.
It’s also the fault of Laura’s selfish Conservatives who, as she says, have done nothing to fight for marriage and the family; who have with their selfish individualismcontributed to an anti-marriage culture and its dire consequences for society – and who then find themselves incapable of challenging the authoritarian state they purport to loathe.