So what exactly is “state sponsored fatherlessness”? Is there any credence in the charge being levelled at the last Labour government? (See a few posts below for the reference). Let’s examine the case for the prosecution…
a) Single mothers get benefits to help them support their children, whether in or out of work, thus making it less necessary to have a ‘male breadwinner’ around. Single mothers also get given social housing so they and their children have somewhere to live; in fact, there are as we speak hordes of teenage girls prowling the streets trying to find a compliant stranger who will impregnate them just so they can get a council flat. There is also a valid criticism that the benefits system militates against couples who want to live together. They will get more money if they live apart.
b) Not being married to the father of your children has, to an extent, been de-stigmatised. The state does little to encourage marriage, claim the supporters of the Married Couple’s Tax Allowance. Giving them £50 a year to be married would soon sort that out. Seriously though, there is an argument to be made that in trying to ensure that single-parent families aren’t stigmatised, we politicians are sending out the message that two parents bringing up a child isn’t the best option. But I’m not convinced. Surely there’s still a general consensus that two good parents are better than one? And is really that wrong to think that one good parent might well be better than having one good and one bad (domestic violence, abuse, etc) in the same household?
c) Men are actively discouraged from being involved in their children’s lives after a couple splits. There are undoubtedly some ways in which things are made difficult for the man. Social housing that would be capable of accommodating a family for part of the week is rarely available. I’ve handled more than a few cases for men who have ended up in a grotty bedsit, or even shared hostel accommodation, and who then can’t see their children for more than a few hours at a time. It’s only the parent with >50% residence who gets the family home. But given the shortage of social housing, can we really manage to provide two family-sized homes, one for mum, one for dad, when other families don’t have anywhere decent to live? The Child Support Agency has its critics – lots of them – but its role is to make sure the non-resident parent contributes financially to a child’s upkeep. Some might say its impact is negative in that it focuses solely on the father as a source of money, and doesn’t link this to any more active role in a child’s upbringing. It is unsympathetic – or rather, disinterested – when fathers tell them that they’re not being allowed to see their child, and, quite understandably, think that if they’re contributing to the child’s maintenance the mother shouldn’t be allowed to withhold access unless there are reasonable grounds for doing so. There are criticisms of the role of the family courts, along similar lines.
On reflection, I think it must be about benefits. But have I missed anything?