In 2013 a 17.5 million pounds initiative was announced by the government which aimed to support 16,000 young mothers by 2015. The move was inspired by similar programmes in the USA which claimed to reduce the incidents of domestic violence and child abuse in these households. It’s an interesting experiment, but it also highlights a rather strange dichotomy in government thinking. Clearly the idea of helping the vulnerable elements of our society is an appealing one and it’s hard to dispute, if successful, that it has value. And yet I am strangely ambivalent about it. Let me tell you why.
Consider this particular programme. Like many government proposals it has the whiff of the trying to connect a bolted horse to a cart and when getting down to the nuts and bolts of it, as is often the case with these things, it throws up a disquieting question or two. One of the chief concerns is that it was unclear from the various announcements what these specially trained ‘nurses’ were being equipped to do. Dr Dan Poulter, the health minister, was reported at the time as stating,
“It is about helping mothers and fathers understand what pregnancy and childbearing is going to be about and supporting young couples with some very basic stuff such as setting up home together and helping them understand what it is going to be like to be parents”.