Monday, 1 October 2012
Is A National Parenting Strategy Needed?
The Scottish Government intends to introduce a National Parenting Strategy and I've been asked by Ross McCulloch - @ThirdSectorLab on Twitter - to write a post about what I think would make Scotland the best place in the world to bring up children.
Firstly, society has changed radically in the last 60 years. When I was a child I was fortunate enough to have caring grandparents live within walking distance of my home and I to have been brought up in a tenement where most doors were always open to any child for any reason. Neighbours were my extended family and few hesitated to give us a telling off for bad behaviour or a cuddle when we'd fallen over playing one of our favourite games.
Today I would not dare to reprimand a child who wasn't part of my family and I would hesitate to comfort one in distress. I'm not an uncaring woman but I'm very aware of how easily any such actions can swiftly backfire and result in involvement with the law. Children and parents seem to know their 'rights' but there are those who choose to ignore their 'wrongs', but would a National Parenting Strategy help?
In the 50s there were few one-parent families but today it's common for children to be living with only one parent who has to try to do the work of two. That's not easy - in fact it's nearly impossible, because a mother may be capable of taking on both mothering and fathering duties, but without close support of male members of family or close friends, she cannot provide a male role model.
Where child welfare is concerned the demise of the health visitor is one of the worst decisions Scotland's politicians have made since devolution. These women - the few who are left - are one of the most valuable resources new and not-so-new parents have at their disposal. Their numbers should be increased to cover today's more demanding social issues such as alcohol and drug abuse.
No child in Scotland should live in poverty as the taxpayer provides a basic sum for every child, but if parents misuse the funds I have no doubt a health visitor would be the first to notice.
Now to the subject of childcare. Professional childcare has now replaced the support given by grandparents and other relatives. Norway's childcare system is often held up as a good example, but it only applies to single-parent families and the parent must meet 36% of the costs. Some two-parent families may need help, particularly those with a disabled child and they ought to be given priority.
I dislike governmental interference in our lives but if a National Parenting Strategy helps parents become more aware of their responsibilities and gives them access to help and advice it must be beneficial for our children. What such a strategy has to ensure is that it has a distinct identity and not become just another branch of social services. Most importantly it has to be accessible to all.