Monday, July 16, 2007

Why divorce is in the news again.

Iain Duncan Smith set a hare running last week when he published his Social Policy Review. One of the most contentious recommendations he made was for the Government to come up with a tax incentive to married couples of about £20 per week.

Well that was the story that hot the headlines anyway.

The point about the marriage proposals is that they are but one small part of a much wider range of ideas which will come forward with one main overriding theme. Tucked away in the body of the report was a veritable feast of new ideas and proposals designed to improve the life chances of those children born into the most deprived areas of Britain.

The battleground at the next election is going to be our “broken society” which is not just family breakdown but a general decline in the quality of life for many people caused by a whole range of issues and social problems which Government intervention alone has failed to fix.

The country is crying out for some fresh thinking on most of our social problems: drugs, alcohol, crime, child sex abuse, antisocial behaviour, dysfunctional familes, educational under performance, old age care and provision, exclusion from schools, cultural and religious inclusion - you name it, it is getting worse.

The 'big idea' of Camerons team is not based around family values -important though they are- it is about creating a new sense of social responsibility.

Previous generations of Britons solved a much more serious range of social and health problems via self help, charity and voluntary groups who sprung up with a specific purpose and focus - Dr Bernardos, The Salvation Army, the RSPCC, Shelter and the Samaritans all have been far more effective in their chosen fields of service than a Government department or task force could ever have been.

If Britain is to fix it's broken society it will do so because thousands of people up and down the country want to play their part in helping to make the country a happier, safer place; and not because they sit back, pay a bit more in taxes and hope the Government can sort it out for them.

Like the revolution in the 1980's when we recognised that Politicians were the last people who should be running businesses I hope Britain will finally recognise that the Government isn't always the most compassionate source of help and support to those in need.

And sure, if having a stable and secure two parent home family is the best way to improve a childs life chances (and it is) then I see no problem in Government trying to encourage this for as many kids as possible.


Anonymous said...

It may be old fashioned to say it but marriage is important and the sheer number of lonely single mums with 'problem' kids in Torbay is itself a major problem for all of them.

Where are the dads, though?

Barrie Wood said...

Back to Basics MK II ? A lame Tory attempt at social engineering ?

Stability for children is key not marriage certificates and clumsy attempts to 'promote marriage' via the tax system.

I say this as a married man with a dependent child !

Anonymous said...

As a self proclaimed Christian I am surprised you think that 'social engineering' is wrong.

'social engineering' is what the church have managed for two thousand years; and they used to do a pretty good job of encouraging good behaviour and a caring society.

It is foolish to imagine that we can dump 2,000 years of accepted wisdom as to the best way to manage a society so that it works for the common good and replace it with what we have today- widespread moral anarchy.

We wouldn't be in this mess if todays Anglican message wasn't so confused by the Liberals who have taken over the Church proclaiming that 'anything goes' instead of advocating decent behaviour that may sound less 'PC' but is in fact what people yearn for.

Perhaps if the Church were doing it's job properly politicians wouldn't need to get involved.

Marcus Wood said...

Barry, Even Labour MP and ex minister Frank Field concedes that the current benefit system acts as a positive incentive for women to have children alone without in most cases even a slight attempt to create a stable family unit.

Even a cursory look at the statistics proves that the increase in family breakdown matches exactly the adoption of a laissez-faire attitude towards the institution of marriage by successive Governments since the 1960's.

It is a bad sign that an honest attempt to broach this important subject is already being hijacked by you for party political point-scoring.

Marcus Wood said...

Anonymous - I have enough trouble with politics on here without moderating a debate about the Anglican church!

"Politics or religion should never be discussed in an ale house else the conversation quickly descends to ill temper".

Marcus Wood said...

... Not that this blog is an ale house ... but the point remains valid. One or the other but not both I think.

Barrie Wood said...


I wouldn't particularly associate 'problem kids' with single parent households like you do Anon. There are plenty of dysfunctional home units from every kind of family configuration.

I repeat it is the quality of parenting - providing a loving home and clear 'boundaries' / discipline that matters more than the status of those providing it.

Denigrating families, especially those not fitting traditional patterns would be electorally crazy. 43% of children born today are to unmarried couples. Are the Tories saying these families are less valid ? - or somehow 'second class' ? Do you agree with Anon Marcus ?

As for the Anglican church it is the evangelical tradition that is becoming the largest force, both in numbers and influence.

Overall, as a [now] non-Anglican I'm happy to leave their members to their never-ending squabbles [in their own forums].

Barrie Wood said...


Do you really think a £20 tax 'incentive' will restore the institution of marriage ?

When married persons did receive tax breaks in the 70s and 80s didn't this coincide with sharply increasing divorce rates ?

Add to the mix proposals to slash £8bn from the current welfare bill leaves the Tories reverting to type - right-wing policies hidden by honeyed words.

For some examples see :

Finally, Marcus, Frank Field may be many Tories' favourite 'red', but he's about as typical of mainstream Labour thinking as might be Quentin Davies, the Tory defector. I seem to remember him getting sacked from his ministerial post for propagating the kind of ideas you credit him with !