George Osborne vs. single mums

// 19 October 2012

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This is a guest post by Diane Cawsey, from Dover. She is married with two dogs and one cat and is a keen volunteer, working locally with individuals as well as families.

 At the beginning of the week I was standing in the kitchen, at work, with a male colleague watching the news. George Osborne’s face popped on to the screen and he started delivering his speech detailing that unemployed families with more than two children would now receive fewer benefits. My male colleague was very pleased with this saying “why should I support all those kids, it’s not my responsibility to look after other people’s children”. But I believe Mr Osborne has got it wrong – by reducing welfare payments, unemployed families will face greater hardship than ever before.

The burden of not having enough money contributes significantly to families struggling to make ends meet. The daily grind of living on benefits contributes to many relationships breaking down resulting in single female parents trying to make ends meet living on benefit payments.

The single parents I meet tell me stories of hardship whereby the heating goes off at 7pm otherwise there’s not enough money for food or they would like to go out to work but there’s no one to look after the baby as childcare is too expensive. Moreover, the women I meet never choose to be single parents. Their relationships break down due to financial pressures; their partners are often no longer prepared to stay when things get tough. Many single parents I meet are housed in ghettos sharing similar stories with their neighbours and once again, it is women who are the scapegoats being blamed for the welfare deficit through to destroying the “nuclear family”.

When I was 15, my friend gave birth and she was put in a local unmarried mothers’ home. Once the baby was born she was relocated to a grim bedsit in the next town. This was only the 1980s but could easily be compared to the 1880s for the cold, harsh and grim reality of having a baby out of wedlock. Luckily my friend kept her baby, married the father and went on to have two more children – a fairy-tale type ending.

Thankfully, women can now choose whether to stay with their partners, the social stigma of being unmarried and pregnant has faded over time and the adage of “for the sake of the children” no longer applies to modern relationships. Why should women put up with errant partners? Yet it is a brave woman who goes it alone, raising her children without a partner to share the task.

I cannot help but wonder if George Osborne was female would mothers still be in his cross hairs? If George was a woman, this latest witch hunt might have long been superseded with a more relevant idea to reduce the deficit. George you’re not being very original: stop picking on women.

Photo of George Osborne by altogetherfool, shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Comments From You

Rhubarb // Posted 19 October 2012 at 1:36 pm

My comment is going to be a bit of a criticism, so before that I want to say that I absolutely agree that this is a feminist issue. Cuts of most varieties but especially those to child benefits do tend to hit women harder (as the Fawcett Society’s research has shown). Cuts to unemployed single parents’ benefits are particularly hard given that most single parents are women and there are other issues to consider around the cost of childcare, suitable working patterns and so on.

However I think your last paragraph is a little bit off. I feel that to suggest that Osborne is pursuing this route because he is a man (and therefore presumably not as invested in the issue) is quite simplistic. Let’s not forget that although the majority of the Conservative parliamentary party are male, there are notable female MPs and those working in supportive policy think-tanks who are female and are pushing similar solutions. Similarly, there is a significant sector of the electorate to whom such policies are designed to appeal and there are plenty of women amongst them, as well as male MPs and men who do not agree with this sort of approach. Additionally the Conservative Party haven’t been terribly keen on single mothers since the 1980s, when Thatcher was leader.

I think you’re right to criticise their approach to welfare and the representation of single mothers that their policy and rhetoric suggests. However, in explaining why it’s developed in that way it’d maybe be helpful to consider it in relation to the longer game of the party regarding its approach to the welfare state, as opposed to suggesting that the gender of the chancellor is the main factor.

Shadow // Posted 19 October 2012 at 5:57 pm

Just because Conservative party contains female MPs does not mean these women are opposing Osborne’s demonisation of women who (horrors) dare to try and raise their children without the obligatory male adult head of household being present. These Tory female MPs support the Conservative policies otherwise these women would not be Tory MPs.

Osborne is demonising women who happen to be raising their children without the obligatory male ‘breadwinner being present’ and yes Osborne being male is wholly relevant. Note Osborne not once focuses on fact many men who are fathers have opted out of their financial responsibility with regards to the children they have fathered. Instead we have the mythical ‘family unit which is always one male head of household, his female property and her children.’ Because this ‘mythical family’ is presented as the only one which can be defined as the ‘family unit.’ Families are not ‘families’ if there is no father/mother and his (sic) children (because mothers only produce men’s children do they not?).

Just because a number of women do work in right wing think tanks does not make these women ‘feminist’ or even promote the fact ‘family’ is not one male head of household and his minions. If these women did not agree with right wing policies concerning demonising women who are raising their children without the (obligatory) male head of household then these women would not be working in these Think Tanks.

Troika21 // Posted 19 October 2012 at 7:53 pm

George Osborne is attempting to reduce the benefits bill, and I for one, hope he succeeds.

Having volunteered myself (at the Citizens Advice Bureau, during periods of unemployment) I can tell you that there is a definite perception that dealing with the benefits system gets easier should you be looking after a child. This is by no means all welfare recipients, a significant minority certainly.

And they are right. Many benefits are increased or only available if you are caring for a young child. Myself, I doubt that this has much of an effect population wise, but it does seem to precipitate the slide into welfare dependency for those who use it – the government becomes the first place they look for assistance, even if it is not the best provider.

The last government viewed the problem of poverty as simply a question of money/income, and attempted to deal with it by increasing welfare payments, especially to single mothers who have typically been unfairly demonised by Conservatives, but Labour took it so far I think its fair to accuse them of attempting to buy votes.

Alex_T // Posted 20 October 2012 at 10:20 am

Children don’t ask to be born, and it’s disgraceful that they should have to live in poor conditions just by virtue of their very existence. Yes, there probably is an element of people not planning their families resposnibly, but that is not the children’s fault. When asked ‘why should I support other people’s children?’, the answer is ‘because you are a decent human being living in a supposedly civilised society, and wouldn’t let any child suffer’.

Rhubarb // Posted 22 October 2012 at 2:29 pm


Your comment seems to be a reply to mine and I don’t think we actually disagree on one point: I’m not claiming that because there are women in the Conservative Party and the relevant think-tanks that the policy approach the Party is taking is therefore ‘feminist’ and not problematic. Quite the opposite, in my opinion.

ScattyCat // Posted 5 November 2012 at 10:08 pm

” Luckily my friend kept her baby, married the father and went on to have two more children – a fairy-tale type ending.”

A fairy tale? Really? Because we all know that’s what all women secretly hope for. I find it quite surprising. and patronising, that you feel only marriage and more babies was the happy ending for your friend.

My son is now 16, and have been a single parent for most of that. I spent the first 2 year with his father, a violent, revolting person, and was married for 2 years to a very nice man.

(I was also a teenage mother).

The best years? When it was just my son and I.

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