a personal view by Russell White
The ongoing furore over single motherhood which was started in 1994 opened a debate which appeared to be going nowhere. Neither the Left or the Right had anything original to say about the issue.
The Left clung doggedly to the belief that the single mother deserved the fullest sympathy and that the Government was persecuting the unfortunate women.
The Government, having sparked the row by rightly suggesting that single mothers should not automatically go to the front of the housing queue, failed to offer an alternative. They missed the point that action needs to be taken which will firstly reduce the number of single parents and secondly ensure that those women who do become single mothers are able to contribute something useful to society, rather than remaining on welfare indefinitely.
What do we mean by single mothers ? Basically, any unmarried mother without a partner who cannot afford the bills resulting from housing in the private sector or perhaps even from separate council rented accommodation.
At the moment the unmarried mother is particularly liable to remain a permanent burden to the state purse. Her earning power is severely restricted as she finds difficulty when seeking suitable childminders to care for the child whilst she is at work. The extended family of the past, consisting of a number of relatives has largely disappeared with family breakdown and the tendency for people to move further from their original home town/district in search of work and a better lifestyle. It is sensible both socially and economically to ensure that she is released back into the economy by making these facilities available to her.
Socially, housing causes much consternation amongst married couples who are placed behind the single mother on the council housing lists. This policy only serves to ensure that people who probably would have married opt to stay unwed in order to get a roof over their heads. We hear regularly of statistics showing that children born out of wedlock are more likely to end up without a father as such relationships break up even more frequently than marriages.
The policy which was devised with the best intention of helping the child in such cases to have a better start in life with its natural mother has led to awful problems for social services, police and the exchequer over many years.
What can be done to alter this trend ? We have to ask tough questions of ourselves and examine the way we do things. Do we really need to provide separate accommodation for each one-parent family (with its own lavatory, kitchen, bath, etc.)? Could we not create a communal environment for single mothers which would provide facilities which are not used 24 hours a day at a cheaper cost to both the women concerned and also to society in general ?
At present the bills resulting from sole usage of such facilities as water and heating can be beyond their grasp. Cleaning of urinals and sinks/baths would be cheaper if done regularly by a warden in a shared accommodation. Cost of installation would also be cheaper if, say, one toilet were to be provided for every two families of three people.
Where would these communities be set up ? In order to preserve the existing social balance, they would be created in areas which already have the largest number of unmarried lone mothers. The scheme would fail if it incurred the wrath of people who had bought houses, having married and done everything in the traditional way.
What social advantages would these new complexes offer ? They would ensure that the isolation felt by women in high rise blocks would be replaced by a sense of community – solidarity with women in the same circumstances who may have been deserted or abused by their former partners.
From despair there would grow hope. The discussion and sharing of experiences would, I believe, lead to greater self-reliance than is currently enjoyed by single mothers. These feelings would be passed on to the children.
The complexes would be secure and in a large group a resident security guard could be afforded instead of the costly system we have at present which increases crime as women on their own in a tower block are easy prey for muggers and rapists.
Apart from reducing the number of crimes committed against lone women with children, we could, I hope, cut dramatically the number of crimes committed by illegitimate children. They would be more easily supervised by the mother’s new extended family, and control exercised to keep them away from drugs and petty crime. It would be harder for them to defy their mother’s authority if she had the backing of tens of other Mums close by.
In order to reintroduce lone Mums to the workplace, nursery and creche facilities would be included in the complexes and in-house work could be done by women reluctant to go too far from their children.
Imagine the amount of retraining which would occur. All of these aspects would mean that women in such circumstances could actually get jobs and training otherwise closed to them, thereby reversing the charge that they were a drain on the national purse.
Opportunities for other initiatives, such as combating drug and drink addiction would also exist as never before.
This marks a turning point. Neither the soul-corrupting welfare addiction nor the poverty and isolation, but a new option for single mothers.
We would like to reassure our readers that the above is most emphatically not Third Way’s policy on the subject. The new Labour government, however, appears in part to be following its line of reasoning….