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July 10, 2007


Jane Henry

I think like a lot of political initiatives in this area, IDS is at heart well motivated. That was perfectly clear from watching him on the news last night. I cynically thought, oh yes, he's going for the sympathy vote when he touched the hand of the mother of the drug victim, but it turned out he had known her for five years. So for five years he has quietly been working away in Scotland on drug issues. All power to his elbow.
BUT... I am a supporter and proponent of marriage/longterm cohabitation as the best way to parent children is in my view to have two loving and devoted parents. This isn't just about having good role models from either sex, but also that it's such a bloody hard job to attempt it alone is both courageous and immensely difficult (and if you choose it deliberately, fooolhardy).

However, we don't live in an ideal world and couples split up all the time for all sorts of reasons, some of it their own fault, some of it not. If you are a single mum who has been left by a useless boozing husband, or a widowed father coping with grief and a small child (both scenarios I've witnessed in friends/family) no amount of tax incentivisation is going to take you back to the marital bed (and of course if you are widowed you can't).

However, I think there is a case for looking at some incentives for married couples because it does seem that it is easier to obtain benefits if you are not married/cohabiting - my ex nanny has really struggled to get a council flat with her husband. They now live in a one bedroomed flat - they both work and it's pretty tough. That doesn't seem right to me, when other people who perhaps have been more feckless then she is automatically go on the list because they're single.

None of this stuff is ever black and white of course, but I do think there are lots of shades of grey and it couldn't hurt (and might even help) to swing the pendulum a bit more the way of married couples.

Incidentally, it does always make me laugh when politicians get all po faced about the family. In your neck of the woods in the 19th c common law marriage was the norm - only the posh people got married (and then often the men shagged around anyway) - plus ca change, huh.

Perhaps Mayhew's Poor should be required reading for politicians trying to tackle social ills.

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