Clearly, offering advice on breastfeeding and nutrition is a good thing, but assisting them in giving up smoking or drugs or offering advice on how to ‘keep their boyfriends’ seem to be a little sketchy. Dr Poulter rationalises that encouraging young mothers to stay with their partners would reduce the likelihood of them going on to have multiple children with multiple fathers. I don’t know how to feel about that particular statement. It is at once depressing, absurd, patronising and probably unlikely to succeed. Is that honestly the only solution we have for the problem? One can’t help but feel it lies elsewhere. Obviously endeavouring to end circular patterns of neglectful parenting is a good and worthwhile objective, but is such a project really going to achieve that. Some of these individuals are not simply feckless or ignorant. Many of them come from extremely challenging backgrounds and environments. I’m unconvinced that the odd visit by Nurse Joan (up until the child reaches the age of two) is likely to bring about any real long term change. And yet, of course, if it can help a child, even in the short term, it’s hard to dismiss it. After all these young mothers exist here and now and must be helped.
But consider for a moment the stance that the government takes towards mothers who wish to take time off to be with their newborns. The long-term benefits of this for our society are criminally overlooked. However, it is for many financially impossible. The new marriage tax credit is a start but it does not go any where near far enough. One must conclude that the government ultimately finds it to be economically undesirable. This is made more laughable when we place this in the context of proposals by the NHS to offer lessons to parents on how to play with their children. This is in response to an apparent rise in what it refers to as ‘conduct disorder’ amongst our young. Looking at these matters side by side and you start to get a view of government which appears a little inconsistent.
On the one hand, the young mother initiative is intended to improve the lives and social outcomes of children of young parents yet on the other they remove any opportunity for the majority of mothers to create (at least in these early years) the most loving and stable households they can. Indeed, families with one stay at home parent have been the most marginalised group in recent times. Figures from the OECD reported (at the time the young mother initiative was launched) that such families were losing more money after the Cameron-Clegg partnership came into power. The alternative to stay at home mothers or fathers is often sub-standard childcare. One can only guess at the cost to the nation of this, but like much of this governments sticking plaster philosophy, it is happy to spend millions hopelessly and retroactively trying to correct a ‘conduct disorder’ that their policies created. What kind of madness is this?