Monthly Archives: July 2014

A pause for thought : Single Mothers

Pause for thought : Single Mothers


The following is a short extract from an extensive and intense essay, “Mothers” written by Jacqueline Rose and published in Volume 36, Number 12 of the June 19th, 2014 issue of the London Review of Books p17-22. The full text of the essay can be accessed at

This autumn Jacqueleine Rose becomes the Diane Middlebrook and Carl Djerassi Professor of Gender Studies at Cambridge University.


A single mother stands as a glaring rebuke to the ideal. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the number of single mothers in this country rose faster than at any other time in history, seemingly unaffected by an increasingly strident Conservative rhetoric of blame. The most pervasive image was of an unemployed teenager who had deliberately got herself pregnant in order to claim benefits, although as Pat Thane and Tanya Evans point out in Sinners? Scroungers? Saints?*, their study of 20th century unmarried motherhood, she was ‘very rarely to be found’. Over the past century single mothers have variously been one or other or all three of those epithets, the first and last stringing them between opprobrium and holiness (neither of this world), the second more prosaically casting them as objects of moral contempt. The single mother, it seems, was the original ‘scrounger’ the terms which allows a cruelly unequal society to turn its back on those it has thrown on the scrapheap. This manipulative, undeserving mother was the perfect embodiment of the ‘dependency’ culture, an idea which is being revived today in order to justify an ever more thorough dismantling of the welfare state. It is also worth noting how far her vulnerability and her needs, not to speak of those of the children for whom she has sole responsibility, seem to count against her   –   lone parents, especially unmarried mothers, are still today one of the poorest groups in Britain.



* Sinners? Scroungers? Saints Unmarried Motherhood in 20th Century England by Pat Thane and Tanya Evans (Oxford, 240pp., August 2013, 978 0 19 968198 3).

“Home Truths” about the struggle for survival of children’s homes

Jonathan Stanley, the Chief Executive Officer for the Independent Children’s Homes and of the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child care has written to us about a new report which Children’s homes providers have published, ‘Home Truths – The state of independent residential child care 2014.
He suggests, “No other report has ever contained such a level of concern for the present and future of Residential Child Care.  It looks at the current situation, records experiences and charts the potential futures of what the authors see as an ‘unprecedented culture of anti-residential feeling.’”
In launching the report Jonathan  said, “The sector meets extraordinary needs with extraordinary responses yet is under-estimated, under-valued and under-funded.  Though providers have embraced reform, the report shows our nation’s homes do not have the necessary firm foundation for their future.  To change this situation will require Government-led clear strategic direction, commitment, creativity and courage.  We need people to step up for Residential Child Care.”
He believes “Alarm bells must start ringing. It has to be of major concern that this vital sector is experiencing demoralisation and fears irrevocable damage through its further diminution and contraction, even collapse, as providers disappear.  We are very far away from the one common shared future for Residential Child Care that is needed, to ensure the continuation of the specialism, safety and choice our young people need.”
The report sees children’s homes as necessary and needed, highly regulated, with a workforce of experienced, knowledgeable and committed professionals offering versatility, diversity and flexibility, in the very complex and difficult task of meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and challenging group of young people in the UK.
Providers report fees from local authorities being driven down to unsustainable levels, regardless of the quality of the provision and call for an end to what they call local authorities ‘in-house-ism’, where their own resources are used first often leading to increased moves for a young person.  The report makes the call for new thinking, collaborative work between local authorities and providers to get the ‘right child in the right place – first time!’  The providers see costs frequently being prioritised over care considerations.  They also see that standardised benchmarking for needs/behaviours across all local authorities will assist in giving an accurate indication of the needs of the young person.
The providers seek a new partnership with Ofsted away from what is reported as a ‘toxic environment,’ arising from experiences of individual inspector interpretation and adversarial and attritional inspection.  One result given in the report is of providers acting to maintain good or outstanding ratings, by reducing the level of needs they previously admitted, resulting in some young people not having access to the services they need.  The report calls for inspections directed to improvement.
The providers call for an ambitious review of qualifications, radically changing the current requirements and delivery, and look to something similar to the professional teacher’s qualification.

Goodbye, Mr Gove

It is a relief of sorts that Michael Gove has become the former Secretary for Education. Mr. Gove may have talents in a number of  fields but surely most with a thoughtful approach to how children might be reared and educated would not see his talents as lying in the field of children’s growth and learning. The post of government Chief Whip seems more suited to him.  Mr Gove has presided over many cuts to children’s services and driven through such reactionary changes to the education system as the free schools and the academy programmes. It is evident these last two have tended to be anything but free and are there only to support the needs of special interest groups, to provide fat profits for private companies and to serve those who have a vested interest in maintaining privilege and wealth for the powerful few.
Freedom has not been served by Mr. Gove’s  support for “conned by rote” learning, a method free of imagination and creativity which serves  to dull the mind and rear more zombies for an economic system which pays them just enough to keep quiet about the gravitation of undue wealth towards less than 10% of the world population while an increasing number live in abject poverty in an environment which is all too often “free” of education.
Perhaps, in relation to education in England, as we say “Goodbye,Mr. Gove,” we should not forget, that though he may have been one of the most divisive and destructive of education ministers, the seeds of what he allowed to grow were planted by the previous Labour government. It is to be hoped that with Mr.Gove’s departure  those in all political parties with a responsibility for the education and nurture of our children will now heed more considered, better informed counsel and that soon all our children services will truly meet the needs of each child, encourage imagination and creativity rather than serve the threats of a selfish discredited economic system.