31 Mar 2007

Child Poverty - "Aiming high", but mixed messages from HMG

Aiming high for children: supporting families [March 2007] is in many ways an admirable document, but it fails to address the issue of competing messages from popular culture, probably because HMG itself is guilty of promoting the most crucially damaging messages that now form part of the UK's popular culture.

2.61 Parents who want to teach their children right from wrong and standards of behaviour and how to exercise discipline and self control, can find themselves competing with popular culture which often seems to be sending out competing messages and which then reinforces all the peer pressure on their own children.

"Nothing wrong with that", is how most people will react.

And few will complain about:

2.54 Children’s outcomes are best when they grow up in a stable family structures with a positive relationship between parents. The quality of each parent’s relationship with the other is vital. Government wants to support stable relationships between parents. However, where relationships break down, the Government also wants to provide the necessary support to ensure children get the best start.

2.55 There is a high correlation between family breakdown and poor child outcomes. However, parental separation is not an isolated event, but a process that starts long before the actual separation and can continue to impact after the parents have parted. The evidence shows that parental conflict can also be very damaging to children’s outcomes, and that support offered to parents can be effective to help minimise such conflict.

But if HMG really wants to "provide the necessary support to ensure children get the best start" why is its new mantra 'prevention and early intervention' limited to children and not applied to the relationships of couples before they become parents, by promoting marriage preparation? It's Ok to teach children moral values, but perish the thought parents should be asked to consider them! This is typical of the mixed messages that HMG is sending out. No wonder children and young people are confused!

1.8 .......... • prevention: Preventing poor outcomes from arising in the first place benefits children, young people and families directly. In addition, failure to prevent problems impacts not only on the family but also society more widely, for example in lost economic contributions, poor health, and the effects of antisocial behaviour.

"Government wants to support stable relationships between parents". Really? So what has it done about it? It's just cut the MARS [Marriage and Relationship Support] grants - which in any case were miniscule - so the 'message' it is sending out is that it does not value marriage and stable couple relationships. The Weekly Update of UK Marriage News - No 7.11 18/3/07 from 2-in-2-1 puts it like this:

CYPF Grant analysis: We have now had a closer look at the list of funded organisations for this year’s CYPF grant and can confirm that none of the grants made this year is for work that can be categorised as “MARS”. This means that the funding is simply that announced last year – ie some £369K LESS than in 2005/6. The main loser is once again Relate which has seen its core funding cut from £2.1M two years ago to £1.2M this year with a further reduction of £200K already announced for next year. The total MARS funding is now down to £3.63M from the £5M three years ago – a 33% reduction in real terms, with a further 9% cut forecast for next year. We leave you to draw your own conclusions on where the whole area of Family Breakdown really sits on this current government’s agenda.

And HMG complains about "competing messages from popular culture"!

So much for its assertion that "the quality of each parent’s relationship with the other is vital."

Aiming high for children: supporting families claims it is 'building resilience':

1.13 The Government has sought to work with parents and communities to reduce key risks or negative influences on children’s lives, through the priority attached to eradicating child poverty.....

Who will be inclined to believe HMG is 'building resilience' - or seriously concerned with 'child poverty' - when it can't even mention 'marriage' in a document about supporting families, and is consistently reducing such small grants as it makes for marriage support?

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