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Comment: The Manifesto for Happy and Healthy Families

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The rather oddly named Conservative think-tank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) released a Manifesto for Happy and Healthy Families last week.

Announcing the Conservative Manifesto, CSJ Chairman Iain Duncan Smith said:

"Thirteen years of Labour misrule have inflicted grave damage on the family.  All the evidence shows that children brought up in two-parent families do far better in life.  Yet under Labour, rates of family breakdown have soared."

He then proceeded to list a number of facts that would make even  proud:

  • "Over 40% of children are now born outside marriage."

    It would seem IDS considers married couples inherently superior to unmarried ones.  (Why else cite this statistic?)

  • "Intentional harm has risen 34% in the last 4 years." 

    This statistic is hardly surprising because he's referring to reported intentional harm.  In years gone by, parental abuse often went unreported because social services were simply inadequate, understaffed and/or underfunded.

  • "The UK has the 4th highest teenage pregnancy rate in the world." 

    Now this "fact" sounds a bit fishy to me.  How many countries even bother to collect data on teenage pregnancies?  In many places, children as young as 10 are and teen pregnancy is the norm.  In this context, it's a little hard to believe the UK has the 4th highest teenage pregnancy rate in the world.

  • "Alcohol consumption by UK children has doubled in the last 15 years; 1 in 4 children now take drugs, compared to 1 in 20 twenty years ago."  

    How about compared to 10 years ago?  Recent suggest things have improved in recent years.  Moreover, modern attitudes towards child drug/alcohol use are focused on treatment rather than punishment, which encourages children to be more honest.

  • "Children living in single parent or broken families are far more likely to experience serious abuse than those living in two-parent families."

    So what's the solution?  Do we force people to get married if a woman conceives out of wedlock?  Or deny people a divorce if they no longer love one another?  How exactly would this make things better?

  • "Labour has scrapped all recognition of marriage in the tax system and in most official forms.  It has also distorted the benefits system to make it more profitable for couples with children to live apart."

    Don't couples go to the registry office or some religious institution to get recognised?  Why do we need the taxman to get involved?  As for the benefits system, how exactly is it more profitable for couples with children to live apart?  Which and how many couples are ripping us off? 

Recommendations in the Manifesto for Happy and Healthy Families

Mr. Duncan Smith has 10 recommendations to repair what he perceives to be :

  1. Establish a Department for Families: because we need more bureaucrats.

  2. Recognise marriage in tax system: because everyone knows encouraging people to get married to earn a tax break makes perfect sense.

  3. Reinstate the collection of marital status statistics: because we need to identify unmarried people and force them to get hitched; if they refuse, lock 'em up.

  4. Abolish the couple penalty in the benefits system: and then abolish the benefit system.

  5. Support families through the establishment of family hubs: because Conservatives need a refreshing, new buzz phrase.

  6. Expand and enhance the health visitor profession: in other words, privatise health care.

  7. Intensive support for vulnerable families: if a couple say they want to split up, they receive 'Clockwork Orange' style indoctrination until they agree to get back together.

  8. National provision of parenting programmes: because it's not like we don't already have .

  9. Full family fostering: see 5.

  10. Reform of family law: namely, and the like... er, no thanks.

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