Iain Duncan Smith launched an astonishing attack on step-parents, single parents and LGBT couples this week in a move that could see welfare to work sharks brought into the family home and even the bedroom.
Speaking at a conference on social justice, the Secretary of State warned that in future the proportion of children no longer living with the same parents from birth would be a new government measure to monitor the growth of ‘social problems’.
His comments came after research revealed that half of 15 year olds live with both parents. This is hardly a surprising statistic in world where people are no longer trapped into loveless, or even abusive relationships, in order to avoid the stigma that came with being divorced, a step-parent, in a gay or lesbian relationship or a single parent.
Iain Duncan Smith included children growing up with step-parents in a list of social vices he intends to fix, along with ‘worklessness’, youth offending rates and low educational achievement. As ever, the problem is to be fixed by giving money to private companies.
The Work Programme is the Government’s scheme aimed at reducing long term unemployment by paying huge sums of tax payers money to private companies to bully claimants into work. Despite having already cost close to a billion pounds, the Work Programme has been an unmitigated disaster. Long term unemployment has risen every month since the scheme was introduced and the DWP have repeatedly avoided releasing any information on whether anyone is actually finding jobs through the programme.
The Work Programme is backed by brutal benefit sanctions, giving unprecedented power to welfare to work companies who can now mandate benefits claimants to almost any activity, including workfare. Those who refuse can have benefits stopped for up to three years. When Universal Credit is launched next year, this will include in work benefits such as Working Tax or Child Credits.
It is the same flawed and brutal Work Programme model that Iain Duncan Smith announced in his speech is to be extended to the social problems of step or single parents, worklessness, youth offending and poor educational achievement.
Iain Duncan Smith’s speech laid the foundations for Work Programme style disasters to be exported to all areas of social care.
Companies will be paid by results based on the four indicators mentioned – meaning that companies like A4e and G4S could now be brought into the family home to ensure that children are growing up in ‘stable, loving families’. The measure of success they will be judged, and paid on, is whether the child is growing up with both birth parents and whether the parents ‘report a good quality relationship’.
How this might look in practice is terrifying. Will A4e happiness cops be paid to keep couples together regardless of the circumstances or what’s best for the family? Cynics might ask exactly they are supposed to achieve that. Asking nicely isn’t likely to help divorcing parents after all. The companies involved in these schemes will expect the same teeth they have under the Work Programme – the ability to punish as well as supposedly support.
With step-parents, single parents or other alternative family structures to be now included on the list of social ills, will A4e busybodies be sent in to harass mothers into accepting an abusive partner back into the family home, or attempting to cure parents of being gay? Will Emma Harrison pop up to give sex tips on how to keep that loveless relationship alive, or G4S goons be used as state-appointed marriage guidance counsellors?
Could this even be the road to benefit sanctions for couples that separate or refuse to fit in with the outdated tory fantasy of decent families?
If it sound outlandish that’s because it is. But don’t expect that to make any difference. Anyone who suspects even for a second that the Tories are any different to the same out of touch bigots that were slung out of power 15 years ago only needs to listen to the increasingly hair-brained rhetoric that comes from Iain Duncan Smith.
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