The modern Tory MP seems, to me, indistinguishable from the Victorian stuffed-shirts who viewed poverty as a sin and filled workhouses with a ready supply of bonded labour who were fed enough to barely survive (if they were lucky). In this case they are targeting their old favourite scapegoat: th single or unwed mothers rather than the actual cause of the economic mess, their chums pushing buttons in banks. The likelihood of assistance for these women depends how well they prove that the child they carried to term and did not then give up for adoption is actually the child of the man who subjected her to a sexual assault. This not only places an out of date stigma upon children, well as the mother, but also holds the children accountable for the means of their own conception.
The Self-servatives are quite willing to claim 300 GBP (my keyboard is being weird since the Windows 10 upgrade and my pound sign is missing) per day just for showing up (or not), not to mention exorbitant expenses (often paid to spouses on their own payroll) seem oblivious to the hypocrisy of deciding that a mother is not entitled to an extra 20 GBP per week (or any child related benefits after the 2nd child at all after 2017) because they don’t approve of her ‘relationship’ status. I have a number of objections to the Tory ideology against mothers in all forms. Their main issue appears to be with women acting at all on their own agency and making decisions about their own lives without input from those who deem themselves fit to be our keepers. It holds us simultaneously responsible for our own hardship, while stripping us of the ability to make our lives our own.
Firstly, it places all of the responsibility and financial burden of raising children entirely on the shoulders of the mothers. The ‘exemption’ from the rule also assumes that fecklessness is the default position of all working class parents when it comes to planning the size of their families. It places the very normal act of raising a family in the realms of a hobby for the rich who can afford nannies and childminders with their six figure salaries by making it clear that, in their view, the only acceptable reason for a woman to be caring for a child born out of marriage is that the child was a product of rape (note the absence of accountability expected of male single parents which is also the clue that the policy is specifically anti-woman). Need I make it clear that a child is never at fault for having been born yet the Conservative party seem to think otherwise, and are willing to punish children for what they deem to have been the sin of the parent: daring to be poor.
Secondly, there is the expectation (and double standard) of women being the sole or primary carer. It is still thought of as unusual if the father is in that position (but that is another post) which either sees stay-at-home-fathers as somehow emasculated, and puts dual-income families in the impossible position of either having to pay for expensive childcare that many cannot afford, or forcing women into a long period of dependency on a partner for financial support regardless of the stability of that relationship or size of the income. It is women who carry the penalties of a family through the gap in our work history and the break from NI contributions while not working. The responsibility of the actual care (not just earning a wage) is yet to be seen as genuinely equal for both parents. It takes more than money and ‘aspiration’ to raise children, it takes time, attention and patience, but fathers are generally spared the dual expectation to be both care-giver AND breadwinner. No matter the choice, someone has to care for and raise the next generation (who will eventually be caring for the very people who would happily let them starve). Thirdly, when is it the business of government to manage the intimate details of our lives through monetary carrot-and stick tactics (though its less the offer of a reward and more the beating with the stick for daring to even think about asking for the carrot these days)? A government which claims to deplore interference in individual lives, seems to be rather keen to intervene, and use tax-funded benefits (benefits which are also taxed by the way) in order to legislate their own form of morality and make non-conformity to these out-dated rules financially crippling.
Whether children are cared for by childminders or parents, either choice is regarded as lazy by one portion of society or the other so mothers are already in a no-win situation. The current fashion, as exemplified continuously by the gutter-press, is to pour scorn on all stay at home mothers as either indolent sponges who do nothing but watch TV, or as affluent middle/upper-class women who have consciously made ‘a lifestyle-choice’, so it is not really surprising the Tories are going after the ones with the least power and the most to lose from their regressive new rules. In the eyes of the Tories, the only acceptable mother must be married, with the government approved number of children according to income bracket, and able to divide herself equally between her family and a taxable full-time occupation, care if she has no time left to herself. In this economic climate of redundancies and zero-hours ‘contracts’, fortunes can turn on a penny and it is unfair to condemn parents and children to destitution for making family planning choices which may have been entirely reasonable four months ago.