Thursday, 1 October 2009

Back to the workhouse?

Alwyn has reacted strongly to the proposal announced on Tuesday by Gordon Brown to offer young parents and their families supported living facilities rather than simply allocating them council housing. Personally, I'm not sure what to make of the proposal without seeing a great deal more detail.

Where Brown is right in my view is that far too often teenage parents receive wholly inadequate support, and that it is a mistake to simply see them as a 'housing' issue, to be resolved by allocating a council house. If what Brown is proposing instead of that is an assessment of the needs of such families on an individual basis, and ensuring that there is a range of solutions available offering different levels of support according to those needs, then the proposal is worthy of more discussion rather than being dismissed outright.

If on the other hand, he is simply playing to the gallery, trying to appear to be tough on the young parents involved by making sure that their experience is sufficiently unpleasant to act as a deterrent to others, then he deserves all of Alwyn's condemnation – and more besides.

Teenage pregnancy is a serious issue; but the solutions we need to find are those that prevent it before it happens, not those which stigmatise it after the event. At the moment, I'm still unsure whether Brown is offering more and better support for those who find themselves in that position, or making their lives difficult in order to deter others. Like much of what he said on Tuesday, it's a case of headlines and sound bites rather then substance.

5 comments:

Cai said...

Good to read the comments of a man after my own heart. The fact is that prevention is much more effective and a darn sight cheaper than cure.

There is an excellent book called "The Spirit Level" which puts a compelling argument forward that most of societies Ill's are caused by inequality.

The facts speak for themselves and it is to the Labour parties shame that they have done so little to address this cancer at the very heart of society.

The quicker we get an independent Welsh government with full control over the economic levers as well as Lawmaking, the better!

Cai said...

Good to read the comments of a man after my own heart. The fact is that prevention is much more effective and a darn sight cheaper than cure.

There is an excellent book called "The Spirit Level" which puts a compelling argument forward that most of societies Ill's are caused by inequality.

The facts speak for themselves and it is to the Labour parties shame that they have done so little to address this cancer at the very heart of society.

The quicker we get an independent Welsh government with full control over the economic levers as well as Lawmaking, the better!

Spirit of BME said...

Baby Farms are not new in Europe,they have been of limited success in segregating teenage gals from their peer group so that their "celebrity status"is contained and others do not imitate.Life decisions that these gals make are fine as long as the consequences,financial and others are thought out,but if these decisions are not considered and they fall on the "Parish",then in the fertility cycle of this young girl ,with more siblings -the tax payer could be looking at 40years of call down costs.
The finacial situation over the next 20years means that that the- Free Finacial get out of Jail Card, will not support a life style and will have to be restricted and life decision will have to be more self funded. What little money HMG will have will have to go into prevention rather than supporting concequences.

Anonymous said...

Sorry John, I can't see where your opposition comes from - more knee-jerk reaction to anything which questions the status quo.

I was not mature enough at 16 or 17 or even 18 to raise a child, especially on my own. How much more difficult is it if you're from a poor background and possibly with many problems beyond your control? What Brown is proposing isn't some kind of work house, if it's done properly (yes, a big if, but even a nationalist like myself doesn't believe that Labour are coming at this from a hang em and flog em percpective) then a safe house, with 3 or maybe 4 young mothers overlooked by a kind but stern 'matron' with rules would be a good thing.

These rules (the kind no doubt you give your own kids) will protect them (i.e. give them the 'excuses' to their peers not to lead lifestyles which are to their detriment). Hopefully the young women (I'd like to see something done for the young men too) would imporove their health, mental health, education, self-esteem, self-discipline etc and give their children a better start in life than their mothers may have had.

Where's the problem. You're doing youself, Plaid and the wider left a disservice by continually taking a knee-jerk reaction against anything which goes against common orthodoxy and a welfareism which is failing thousands of people which bid concequences on the poeple who live on these communities and WAG's long-term budget.

Take a look are Germany. The CDU won, people don't trust the orthodox left wing. Brown realises he has to update his message, and yes change too at times. If Plaid doesn't take this message on board you're not going to win Pembs and Carms. If will be won/kept by a Conservative who comes to these problems from a different perspective.

There can be no welfare without responsibility. You join a club (a welfare system in this context) and you have to obey some rules. Those rule are for the good of the community and the individual. Or don't you believe in society only individual 'rights'.

M

John Dixon said...

Anon,

I'm not sure how you read the original post as a 'knee-jerk reaction'. What I said was that, if what Brown is proposing really is motivated by a desire to respond to needs in the most appropriate fashion on the basis of a proper assessment, then the idea deserves to be considered, not simply dismissed.

But if he's trying to impose a one-solution suits all in order to give the impression of being 'tough' on teenage parents, or if he's trying to make the regime some sort of 'deterrent' to teenage pregnancy, then he's addressing the symptoms, not the problem. He would also be doing so in a pretty cynical way, which has more to do with appealing to a particular section of the electorate than with providing the right support to the individuals.

There wasn't enough detail for me to assess which he was saying. I hope it was the former, but there isn't enough detail to judge.

The word 'workhouse' was used with a ? after it - and related to the post made by Alwyn to which I linked. I did not myself describe what he is proposing as a 'workhouse', but clearly that was the parallel which Alwyn drew - and I'm certain that he was not alone in that. And I suspect that Brown will actually be rather pleased if Daily Mail readers interpret it in that way.

I don't underestimate the problem of teenage pregnancy, and specifically acknowledged that those involved are not getting the right support at present. And I said that simply treating it as a 'housing' problem is an inadequate response - but that doesn't mean that a single state-imposed solution is the right one either. And more imprtantly, it doesn't address the question of prevention.