Major discussions concerning the family have been debated in Parliament since Victorian times, and still are. One example is the recent discussions surrounding the importance of divorce, and whether couples should find it more difficult to break up with each other, and possibly breaking up families, which would prevent people degrading marriage. Other discussions include the ‘single mothers’ debate, of which a number of opinions have been expressed thought possible to solve the problems of single parenthood.
John Redwood, former Secretary of State for Wales and right wing of the Conservative Party has already expressed his political views on single parenthood. On Sunday 13th of August 1995, he spoke out about a number of approaches which he believes may solve many of the problems of single-parenthood. He also confirmed the social policies he proposes to deal with the problems. I strongly oppose to the ‘solutions’ Mr. Redwood hopes to deal with, as I believe his social policies would create unnecessary shame and stigma, and discrimination against single parents.
The laws that John Redwood proposes to deal with the problems of lone-parenthood include adoption before benefits, and lower levels of benefits for those who oppose adoption. Mr. Redwood also stated how teenage single mothers should look to the baby’s father and then to its grandparents for financial help, which clearly conveys his reluctance for the State to help teenage mothers’ financially;
“If no-one in the family can help, maybe the girl should consider letting a couple adopt her child to provide the home the baby needs . . . It is only if and when all these options have failed . . .. that the State should step in.” If John Redwood was a functionalist, it would be possible to see how he believes the others in the family can help so much. Though it seems quite obvious to me that the girl would want to be able to bring her own child up independently, and how others, including working grand-parents, would not like the idea of having to pay for a child that they did not chose to have.
If such a girl would then have to “turn to the State for help”, receiving “lower level benefits”, she would be more than likely discriminated against as a result of her economic status. Already as it is, stated by Brina Helgadottir, “Those on welfare are trapped in the benefit system because childcare is too expensive”.
John Redwoods reason for making his controversial views being known to the public may have been intended as a warning to schoolgirls. He degrades single parents, and gives an impression that they deserve to be punished. Many feminists and sociologists would oppose John Redwoods proposals, as he gives the impression that these teenage mothers should be punished, not helped. His proposals suggest how not just schoolgirls, but all unmarried single mothers should be punished for depriving a child of a father, and choosing to become a parent when they haven’t got they money to be one.
It seems that he as with people like Digby Anderson, share old-fashioned views surrounding how children should be brought up. It seems as if they agree that the best form of socialising a child is in a nuclear family, though this isn’t always the best way, where there is possible domestic abuse and too much conflict. Many people believe that single motherhood is actually a norm in some neighbourhoods, where teenage girls plan to have a baby so they can jump housing queues and claim benefits without having to find a job. This, as a spokesperson from the Children’s Society has stated, is just “a myth”. The work of a parent is extremely strenuous, as everybody knows, and very few teenage mothers opt to become pregnant in the first place.
John Redwoods proposals may even come as an insult to many women. With female independence increasing, by not providing much-needed childcare, Mr. Redwood would be preventing women from helping themselves. Thus showing how the nuclear family should be so valued i.e. with the father going out to work to provide the income, and the mother completing the domestic chores and bringing up the children, showing how a father figure is vital.
John Redwood obviously encourages teenage girls to be warned off motherhood, yet by doing this he is attempting to prevent lone-parenting. Such a policy would be useless for single parents though. Lone-parenthood will never be prevented in society, and John Redwood is trying to solve a political problem, in terms of how much money the government is losing, compared to the social problems faced by single parents themselves. It is the high cost of childcare, which seems to be the most apparent problem for single parents.
Many unemployed lone-parents would much prefer to have the chance to earn a living through employment but childcare is too expensive for them to get training or employment. As Teresa Gorman says, “We should look for positive policies that will make gainful employment more attractive”. Neighbourhoods, where lone-parenting is as common as a norm, are found not to be cultural. They are simply estates where single parents, from wherever, have been given living accommodations from the council.
Mr. Redwood’s proposals suggest that it is the States welfare bill paramount in adoption, and not the welfare of the child. I doubt Mr. Redwood has analysed the problem enough as he seems to ignore the financial crisis faced by many single parents. Single parents are often reluctant to give the child they give birth to up for adoption and they should be given a chance to keep their children. To many others, as well as myself, the only answer seems to be childcare. John Redwood’s social policies would shame lone-parents, of most ages, for no necessary reasons. “We are glad that the days are over when babies were left on our doorstep because of the attitude . . . .to single parents. We do not want a return to that kind of stigma.” Mr. Redwood dismissed this statement made by the Children’s Society as a “silly reaction”, yet his social policies will create shame and stigma towards single-parents.
I think that if Mr. Redwood wanted to help single parents with their problems, which he obviously does not, he would have to change his social policies. Teresa Gorman thinks “Women with jobs should get tax relief …on domestic help and childcare. . that enables them to work”. She also added how the French had attempted such social policies, which allows employers of domestic help to be able to keep a record of the tax-detuctible wages they have paid to child-carers, household helpers and people who look after their elderly relatives. They had created half a million jobs in just three years.
I have come to a final conclusion that if John Redwood wanted to help solve the problems of lone-parenthood, providing childcare is the only solution. I doubt shaming single parents and their children will benefit society in any possible way. John Redwood’s proposals would prevent single parents from helping themselves, and gives discriminating impressions about single-parenthood. These might be the impressions Mr. Redwood encourages, but I believe they are the wrong impressions of single parents. I am not saying single parenthood should be encouraged, but single parents deserve help, not punishment.