What to do about ‘broken families’

I was going to blog on healthy eating today but got distracted by this from Frank Field:


Field talks about

a “vicious downward spiral” of broken families in the UK.

He said Britain was facing a social crisis because of the huge number of families who “live in a state of permanent squalor, chaos and hostility” presided over by “toerag parents who haven’t got a clue how to raise children, and delegate the role of breadwinner to the social security system.

There are many different views in our society of how to bring up children and I didn’t think there was one ‘perfect’ way. I assume Mr Field is talking about general principles of teaching children respect, to abide by the law and to want to contribute to society etc. I am not sure what he means when he yearns for the Victorian era, when parents brought up their children within a very clear framework of how they should behave. I don’t know much about Victorian England but thought one of the things it was famous for was expecting children ‘to be seen and not heard’. Mr Field may not have noticed but things have changed. This not how we think about children now. I didn’t think anyone thought that anymore. ‘Every Child Matters’ not ‘Every Child Should Be Quiet until Spoken To’ Although I noticed the new government has deleted the ECM term.


Obviously there are people out there who are not good parents. I don’t think these are all people who ‘delegate the role of breadwinner to the social security system’. I know, and have taught the children of, middle class working parents who have not instilled any sense of respect for others in their children. And I am not convinced there are huge swathes of people who ‘delegate [my emphasis] the role of breadwinner to the state’. There are actually people out there claiming benefits to survive. They want to work. They can’t find a job. And for the young people, some of whom are the ‘toerag parents’ Mr Field is talking about, there is about to be a lot less help with cuts to careers advisory services such as Connexions.


Field wants to introduce a GCSE in parenting and you have to admire his attempt to spin this: “And in a sense the bonus would be both for the pupils and the schools that they’d be picking up an extra GCSE.” Does anyone think universities, employers or anyone else will be remotely interested if pupils have a GCSE in parenting? Even if they get a ‘A’ grade? Not to mention that many teenagers in England already take a module in parenting as part of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE).

I run a nursery in a deprived area and through this job I work with parents, many of whom are on benefits. They are not all wasters and scroungers. They have almost all had really difficult childhoods themselves and want to better themselves. I blogged about one such young Mum last month. Demonising them by using the emotive language chosen by Mr Field is disrespectful and unhelpful. We need continued outreach support through job roles such as Early Years Visitors who deliver parenting classes and visit parents at home to support (and monitor) their parenting skills. We need continued access to Sure Start Children’s Centres. We need continued access to high quality free Early Years provision. Through nurseries, parents have access to printed materials, are signposted to other services, can attend Family Learning courses (which are a fantastic way for professionals to relay messages about positive parenting) and they learn through witnessing how practitioners manage children’s behaviour that there are ways of interacting which don’t involve telling children to shut up or smacking them. Unlike in Victorian times.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to What to do about ‘broken families’

  1. Chris Horner says:

    Great. Can’t add much to that excellent post, except to remark that Field is (despite his protestations) one of those who blame poverty, and the effects of poverty, on the poor themselves. Poverty and inequality don’t account for all the terrible things some parents do or don’t do, of course, but make parents’ lives less of a struggle to survive and guess what? they tend to be happier parents.

  2. It’s characteristic of the Tory Party to blame it’s victims, a tradition which goes back way beyond Margaret Thatcher. What I’m surprised by is that Frank Fields, who, one assumes, joined the Labour Party because he felt some compassion for those in need, has so enthusiatically taken up the roll of victim blamer on their behalf.

    I assume the money is good.

  3. Pablo Luis Gonzalez says:

    Frank Field is in the wrong party. Is he assuming that there are no broken families in the middle and upper classes? Victorian society was monolithic and monocultural, all the dirty linen was swept under the carpet. There was rampant TB and child prostitution and forced labour, is this the type of society the Tories want, with the support of the LibDems and working class right wingers such as Frank Field.

  4. Minus says:

    Whether or not they want to delegate the role of breadwinner to the state is irrelevant, they are trapped into a system where work doesn’t pay. I can only offer this as my evidence:


    • anpa2001 says:

      I haven’t had time to read your blog yet; I will try and do so soon.

      It is a great shame when ‘work doesn’t pay’. This is one of the reasons why I support a living wage and decent terms and conditions for all employees as well as affordable housing for all.

      • Minus says:

        If I’m getting it right, a ‘living wage’ as envisioned by Caroline Lucas (I believe her party is the only one which supports such a scheme) would entitle people to sit at home doing nothing productive and just draw from the economy.

        I don’t see this as making work pay, it would just implode the economy and encourage even more people to sit around doing very little.

      • anpa2001 says:

        A living wage is what people would get in return for working. Not for ‘sitting around doing nothing.’

  5. Minus says:

    So it’s not the same thing that Caroline Lucas supported about a year ago then? Which was essentially an untested benefit of about £8 an hour for anybody who worked or didn’t.

    I don’t really see how raising the wages of the whole country would help, it would just raise the cost of living by a similar proportion and we’d be right back to the same problem (labour costs are often a main component in the price of any product or service).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s