Monday, December 11, 2006

The truth: Families are vital

I am relieved and pleased that Iain Duncan-Smith has put the question of the status of the family at centre stage in our review of social policy.

Bluntly the results of detailed social research constantly tells us that family breakdown and/or absentee fatherhood is linked to a whole range of damaging social problems ranging from attention deficit disorder, social exclusion, educational under-achievement, unemployment, obesity, drug abuse, crime and anti social behavior.

Left to it's own devices the breakdown of the family unit threatens the cohesion of society.

While it is not the job of Government to decree how people should choose to live their lives policymakers do have to recognise the impact of their decisions on social behaviour.
As a result of years of neglect for the status of marriage it is hardly surprising that fewer people are choosing to marry; and even less surprising that fewer and fewer people are seeing the benefits of having children within a stable married relationship if the law offers extra benefits to those who don't.

Mr Duncan Smith says that marriage has been undermined by the tax and benefits system under the current Labour government; well he is partly right - we didn't do that much to support marriage ourselves when we last had the chance; so it's a cross party issue that has been a problem for a long time.

He says that the current report is about finding out what the problems are and what has gone wrong - not to lecture people to get married - but to help couples, married and unmarried, to stabilise their relationships.

I agree. We could start by promising a tax regime that recognises the status of families and introduce a transferable married allowance.

We should also have another look at the way the law works with regard to separated parent and their relationships with their children.

I still think ithere are many absentee dads who get off their responsibilities too easily whilst others -who do want to be involved in their childrens upbringing - often find themselves banned
by law from having any involvement save paying maintenance.


Anonymous said...

Do you agree with the proposal to remove passports and driving licences from dads who fail to keep their maintenance payments up-to-date?

Marcus Wood said...

The system is too lax and still relies too heavily on the (in most cases) mother or the CPA to drive enforcement; mainly because the system is based on our civil courts.

Whether taking passports is the right way of dealing with non payment of maintenance I'm not sure - although on balance I am in favour of making refusal to pay child maintenance a criminal matter not a civil one.

Ghost of John Major said...

Sounds like Back to Basics Part 2...anyway Marcus nothing on the 'marvelleous' and 'popular' decisions made by Mr Bye in respect of Dunboyne and St. Kilda's....funny that....

Tory values seem unchanging....blame the poor....marriage is the bedrock of society guff....

Maybe you should not just listen to Polly Toynbee but act upon her analysis.

Barrie Wood said...


You say : " is not the job of Government to decree how people should choose to live their lives". But then you seem to contradict this by saying...."We could start by promising a tax regime that recognises the status of families and introduce a transferable married allowance". Then you quote IDS as slamming Labour for having marriage 'undermined' by the tax and benefits system .

Surely it is about supporting families of many differing arrangements by principally putting the needs of the child(ren) first.
Whilst the tax system is unreasonably complex, it is to Labour's credit that they have sought to challenge child poverty [with some success, especially vis-a-vis the Tories prior record.

I don't think it is up to any government to 'promote' or 'undermine' marriage per se.

It is regrettable that the IDS-led SJ Commission is being spun in the way it is. Bob Holman, a much repected community worker / activist has attested to the genuine nature of IDS commitment to increased social justice for the poorest in our communities, but I get echoes of your party's disasterous 'back to basics' rhetoric from this weeks public statements. A misssed opportunity ?

People should note there is NO offer of even modest redistribution of wealth and resources. Now that would have been a radical shift. Likewise I believe the Tax Commission is under fire from traditional Tories who oppose using the tax system for 'social' ends.

What's your take Marcus ? I write this not from a party perspective particularly, but because I have worked as a youth / community worker and in community education and followed IDS political trajectory with some interest.

Marcus Wood said...

Barrie you say "People should note there is NO offer of even modest redistribution of wealth and resources" Well, that is not true although that is not what this commission was set up to look at; the questions of social cohesion and the fragmentation of society are linked to money but only loosely, as all the research shows.

We are and always have been committed to progressive taxation; but not punitive or disincentivising taxation - just like your party have finally come round to recognising that the 40% top rate of tax is enough we have recognised that you can't improve the life of the nation as a whole without making sure that society is looking out for everyone.

The focus of our tax proposals will be to target help where it is needed the most and we will possibly surprise you with the commitment I think we will make to help the socially excluded, those on less than 40% of the national average - a sector that has grown under Labour.

There has always been a consensus in this country to redistribute wealth from those who have more than they need to those who don't have enough - its the way it's done that differs.

Marcus Wood said...

ghost of john major

I know full well that the decision to close Dunboyne is deepy unpopular -especially with the people directly affected- but the Health Trust who run the home are adamant that they have better alternatives available and we have decided to trust the medical professionals who have made this proposal.