Hostels, lone parents and some grim statistics

There has been an interestingly muted response to Gordon Brown’s proposal of hostels for teenage mothers aged 16 and 17. Simon Hoggart in the Guardian referred to

a weird Victorian notion of an institution for fallen women – a barracks for single teenage mothers

and his colleague Polly Toybee said,

Sheltered housing with support is a good idea for the youngest teenage mums without families. But why make good schemes sound like sending them to a Victorian nunnery for punishment?

If a Tory government had suggested such a thing it is sure that there would have been shriek of outrage that unfortunate women were being ‘victimised’.
If the Tories run with the idea or anything like it when/if they form the next government, the Left and people on Question Time and the BBC will be sure to turn on it with fury.
Here, then, is a reminder of why action of some sort has become desirable. It comes from Dynamic Benefit: towards welfare that works recently published by the Centre for Social Justice. It includes a graph showing that Britain is the unmarried parenting capital of Europe. The only country that is anywhere close to us is Ireland. The rest have a far lower incidence of unmarried mothers.
These are the proportions of households headed by an unmarried mother (figures from Eurostat, read off as best I can from the graph on page 117 of the report):
UK 11%
Ireland 9.7%
France 5.6%
Netherlands 5%
Germany 4.9%
Slovenia 4.7%
Norway 4.3%
Poland 3.3%
Portugal 2.8%
Bulgaria 1.8%
Italy 1.3%
Spain 1.2%
The reason we are the European capital for unmarried parenting is that we give higher benefits – in cash and housing – compared to money available from low-paid jobs than the other countries. Italy gives virtually nothing and unmarried parenting there is rare. It is not that the cash encourages young women to have children out of wedlock. It is rather that government, by giving – relatively speaking – so much money has ended the situation that has previously existed in Britain and still exists elsewhere: that it is a disaster for a young woman to have a child outside wedlock so she does all she can to avoid it.
To those who say that giving less money is harsh and that this is a humanitarian issue I will agree on this: it is indeed a humanitarian issue. A government which changes the natural order of things so that more children are produced by unmarried mothers without any means of support other than the state is creating a deluge of misery for the children that are created.
There are many kinds of evidence that the children are likely to do less well at school and turn to delinquency causing unhappiness to themselves and others, too. Here are just two figures from the same report (p120):
- 70% of young offenders are from lone parent families
- children from lone parent families are than 70% more likely to fail at school.
It is indeed a humanitarian issue and we should think of and speak for the children who are created by the policies that remove the natural disincentive to have children out of wedlock.

  1. Italy used not to pay lone parents much. Lo and behold, there were very few lone parents.
  2. Blunkett wants hostels for single mothers
  3. Report on lone parents and work
  4. The government says it can do nothing more to reduce the number teenage pregnancies
  5. 70 per cent of young criminals have lone parents
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5 Responses to Hostels, lone parents and some grim statistics

  1. Nick says:

    I do find it strange that these “mothers” do not have families. Of course they do. it is they who should house and clothe the baby because it is their fault the daughter became pregnant in the first place.
    I just find the situation of giving money to people because they have produced children absurd. Usually these are the least educated, least economically productive and highest monetary drains already, so why encourage such ignorance with my money?

  2. Padi Phillips says:

    What utter tosh all this is. It is true that it is usually the less well educated young women that become mothers, but this situation exists within a context that they suffer from low self-esteem and that higher aspirations are not inculated by our society which seems satisfied to merely dismiss them as just so much human detritus. The lack of any decent sex education that starts at a very early age just exacerbates this situation – but of course, the moral watchdogs, who seem to be the ones who write much of the anti-underclass diatribes, would be outraged if their middle-class daughters were so exposed to this from the age of 5 or 6. There is of course a moral aspect to this problem, and that is that is that our society should offer some hope to all its citizens, and not just those who have a silver spoon in their mouths. You lot much if wouldn’t be squealing so much if all those you claim to be ‘scroungers’ were working for the starvation rates of the minimum wage if it was making you profits. The question remains as to just who the scum of Britain are, and I don’t think it’s the poor lass whose found herself in a difficult situation – she needs to be given support, and hope and above all a way out. Why don’t you all go and join the BNP where you all seem to belong?

  3. HJ says:

    So Gordon Brown proposes state-run hostels for teenage mothers.
    Well, let’s look at the success rate of state care homes for children, shall we? 40% of girls raised in care get pregnant whilst still teenagers. That’s how effective state care for young people is. And Gordon Brown proposes extending it further!

  4. R Burnley says:

    This is not, Padi Phillips, a question of the new get-out-of-jail-free card ‘low self esteem’. Some single young parents are confident, others less so, it is irrelevant.
    There can be very few teenagers who are unaware that sex is the way babies are created. Contraception is easily and freely available.
    The Netherlands, like the UK, has sex education for its young; it also, more importantly, has very much stricter rules on single parent benefits, including free housing. This, more than anything, is likely to be the reason that country has less than half the numbers of unmarried or unsupported mothers than the UK.

  5. David says:

    “. It is true that it is usually the less well educated young women that become mothers, but this situation exists within a context that they suffer from low self-esteem and that higher aspirations are not inculated by our society which seems satisfied to merely dismiss them as just so much human detritus.”
    So why is this less of a problem in Bulgaria and Spain? What is different about their societies?
    It is possible that the reason why the UK has the most single mums is something other than benefits.
    But no one has actually found this. In that absence of other evidence the money seems to be most likely. Certainly in the past there were a lot less. What has reduced people’s self esteem.

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