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.


Quiet_Man said...

How about a national politicians mind your own business strategy instead?
What we have now is the result of the intervention of do gooders in our lives in which the balances of society to police itself were removed by the government and kids turned into untouchable little tin gods.
You won't put this right by having a national parental strategy.

English Pensioner said...

Logically a parenting strategy should be to discourage people from becoming parents until they can afford it, and to discourage women from becoming single mothers.
However, I realise that this is definitely not PC, and most social workers these days tend to accept almost anything people do as a "lifestyle choice" with which they must not interfere (hence the abuse in Rochdale).

subrosa said...

I agree such an organisation won't right the wrongs of past decades QM, but surely a greatly increased number of health visitors may be beneficial?

What does concern me is that they sack the 'average age 55s' and bring in young, newly qualified women. That would be disaster. Such behaviour happened here in the 80s when it was thought social workers over 50 were too 'set in their ways' and they were made redundant. Very rapidly it became obvious that the influx of newly qualified social workers didn't have a clue and many long established SW/parents relationships disappeared overnight because the trust was lost.

I was one of those who attempted to pick up the pieces from that disastrous policy but once trust is lost it's nigh impossible to re-establish it. Given the power today's social workers have over us, is it any wonder.

subrosa said...

Ah EP, but we're all equal and equally entitled to have children. It doesn't matter these days who pays because the taxpayer is there. If only we could turn the clock back to the days when responsibility for your own actions was fundamental.

JRB said...

Perhaps it is looking through rose tinted glasses or hankering over a time now gone, but your second paragraph encapsulates all that was so good about my childhood.

So what has changed so dramatically from the parents and children of our, dare I say, long gone era to the parents and children of today.

I would say, much can be attributed to a far greater reliance on, and intervention by, the state.

I have great fears that these proposals of a National Parenting Strategy will, in the span of a single generation, simply make maters worse.

Parenting and what should be the role of the family will be handed over, virtually from birth, to become the responsibility of the state.

Joe Public said...

"Is A National Parenting Strategy Needed?"

Most certainly. Restrict 'Child Allowance to the 1st child only.

I agree with EP's comments.

"However, I realise that this is definitely not PC, and most social workers these days tend to accept almost anything people do as a "lifestyle choice" with which they must not interfere..."

Let's not forget social workers have a job-preserving, vested interest, in problem-families breeding!

I've no problem with people having a "lifestyle choice", just don't expect me to pay for their unwanted progeny.

Sheila said...

Most of these initiatives sound lovely until you dig beneath the spin and find out how they interconnect.

There is more information on this here as exposed by Kenneth Roy of the Scottish review:

Getting it right for every child (AKA Getting information recorded for every citizen) will soon be given statutory basis if left unchallenged.

The good news is that people seem to be waking up to the reality of this monster:

Maggie Mellon writes in the Herald recently under the headline, Parents are written out of new children's bill...the comments are encouraging too.

subrosa said...

Sadly JRB I think children have already become the property of the state. Each and every one is recorded from birth. They're fingerprinted at school etc.

I agree with you though and feel sorry that today's children miss out on innocence.

subrosa said...

Don't get me started again on social workers Joe.

subrosa said...

Good to have your input Sheila. I missed Maggie Mellon's article so thanks for that.

It's a sad state of affairs that children are taught all about sex in school but nothing about the responsibilities regarding having children. Oh there will be protests that they are taught about that, but if that is correct then the teaching is wrong because the information isn't getting through.

pa_broon74 said...

Not keen on social workers, my experience with them has been less than positive.

They seem more interested in perpetuating their existence by adhering to one-size-fits-all rules than actually doing anything useful.

That girfec stuff is incredibly sinister, I'd heard of it but not read into it. It is deeply intrusive and quite worrying.

As to parenting, growing up as I did in the 80's there wasn't anything like the level of control there seems to be today, by control I mean diversionary activities. The kids I deal with are micromanaged to an incredible degree, everything is preplanned and scheduled in advance.

I would say this but I blame new labour for this, the abdication of responsibility, society by database and a general effort to turn us all into cynical tax generating automatons.

Meanwhile kids are locked into a program of activities and are zealously controlled while at the other end of the spectrum you have kids with no controls going mental.

We need to be somewhere in the middle. Government (especially local government) should butt well out.

PS: I remember the obligatory school trip, I think our year went to Dusseldorf in 1989, this year I understand they're going to Borneo.

Sheila said...

You are spot on Pa Broon. All this stuff dates back to the Blair administration as explained here:

Jo G said...

I think this is a huge subject but I don't think you can say the state needs to mind its own business and leave "parents" to get on with it. The fact is all concept of "family" is gone in many towns and cities now. There are places where they are into the third generation of no fathers being around.

I am not saying for one minute that life was perfect when I was young. Times were hard: there wasn't a lot of money but there was one mammy and one daddy and we were safe. I feel thankful for that when I look around now and see so many poor wee souls who are, to be honest, probably doomed because of the environments they are living in, or rather, the types raising them. I see "mothers" in the local shop here buying bits and bobs and I think back to being taken shopping with my own mum. My mum would be buying food: nowhere on my mum's shopping list was there room for a bottle of El D, Lanny or today's equivalent, a bottle (or even two) of Buckfast. Yet these purchases are now made regularly in local shops quite openly and in many areas represent a standard Fri/Sat night's fare.

I agree children now very much miss out on innocence Rosie but their young lives, many of them, are existences that would make most of us shudder. Yet again, lately, we've read of yet another helpless child - eight weeks old - murdered by her mother's boyfriend, who was not the child's father. (Like the Andrea Bone case, this case too happened in Aberdeen.) There is this total change in priorities now for young single women with babies and young tots: THE number one priority is to have a man in their lives. I used to believe utterly that a mother would die herself before allowing anyone to hurt her child. In our world today it often simply isn't true any more.

You speak of the role of the Health Visitor. I'd do it differently I think. This would cost money but I'd have clinics created everywhere and I'd insist that all pre school age children were presented there on a weekly (fortnightly at the most) basis to be assessed and checked over. I'd have separate clinics in schools for the same purpose. In too many cases signs of injury are ignored and that child is handed straight back to a potentially dangerous household. Too many children pay the price with their short, miserable lives.

As for Social Workers, I wouldn't be one for a pension. They are damned, often, for what they do and damned for what they don't. One thing I'm certain of however is that we need to face up to the suffering going on out there and act to get at risk children out at the first sign rather than giving too many monsters a second chance. For too often its a defenceless child who is the casualty.

Andrea Bone is out there in our world, a free woman with a new identity. She was the monster who sat by while her boyfriend swung her 14 month old daughter by her feet and smashed her head off the walls of the room and while he hit that child because she was so terrified of him that she was choking on her food. Andrea Bone was jailed along with him but within a short time she had Social Work support too, she got an appeal up and running and she got out. We need to get at risk children away from other potential Andrea Bones to safety.

malpas said...

sooner or later all children will be state property. Parents will only have nominal input.

subrosa said...

I tend to agree with you malpas, particularly after seeing a conversation with two bloggers on Twitter yesterday.

One thought grannies were far too out of date to be any use to her and another said ' not all mothers want to spend the pre-school years with their child/children'.

I resisted saying why have children with attitudes like that.

pa_broon74 said...

@Jo G.

I disagree, the problem seems to be parents divesting themselves of responsibility, you don't combat that by further enabling them to divest themselves of it even further by forcing parents to attend what would amount to check ups.

Frankly, I wouldn't trust the state to do it properly, the social work system is already crap, can you imagine the cock ups that would occur in these clinics?

Also, punishing the majority for the actions of a tiny minority is wrong. Its not a society I'd wish to live in and it sends a very unhealthy message to decent people.

I'd hate to live in a country that did that to its imhabitants.

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