Lone Parents in the United Kingdom.
In the last years of the pervious century, very much polemics has been carried out regarding the problem of lone parents in the United Kingdom. This problem is currently vital for the whole world, but some of its issues have become particularly sharp in the UK. One of the issues regarding lone parents, which impresses the public, is the growing number of teenage mothers in the United Kingdom. Their number is constantly increasing, and this tendency has a very negative influence on the social life in the country. Another alarming issue deals with the change of morals in the recent years. If in the middle of previous century the major reason of families with one parent was the death of spouse, currently many women who have children have never been married. Many of such women have to provide all the care for their children on their own, and fathers do not participate in that. The number of such women in the UK has increased dramatically during the recent years, and the forecast shows that it is going to keep increasing in the future.
The government needs to take all kinds of measures to prevent this forecasted tendency. Nowadays many sources argue that the change in morals and attitudes nowadays makes the issue of lone parents very insignificant, and it does not matter whether the child grows with two parents or just one. However, this attitude is very wrong. The health of the nation is in many ways determined by the morals and values with which people are brought up. The tendency of children growing in families with lone parents has a negative influence on their personality. The only authority which could break this tendency is government. It has to take all kinds of measures to ensure the problem of lone parents in the UK is resolved in the nearest future. Without government’s intervention, the situation can only get more complicated with years.
Statistics of Lone Parents in the UK.
Nowadays, the problem of lone parents is widely discusses in the sources all over the world and in the UK in particular. There are many issues which this problem causes, and they are all widely analyzed. One of the issues is the reason of the increasing number of lonely parents in the country. Another issue is the cost of lone parents to the country’s budget. In the literature, there are many points of view according to which lone parents are a burden on economy; therefore all kinds of benefits for them have to be reduced to the largest extent. There is also a question about the upbringing children in families with one parent according to moral and religious norms. The government needs to get involved in taking actions to solve the mentioned problems.
Many scientists have noticed the tendency of the increasing number of lone parents in the UK. “Northern Ireland has the fastest growing number of single parents in the UK, it was revealed yesterday. Almost 100,000 families, 13 per cent of all households, are headed by a lone mum or dad – this is an increase of nearly 20,000, or 18 per cent, in 10 years. A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office said there was no single reason for the rise and added that an increase in the number of single parents just seems to be a social trend.” (Phillips, 1997, p.22). However, the increase of lone parents cannot be described as a normal social trend. It might be considered a trend, but it is a very negative trend. The number of lone parents has been increasing very rapidly during the recent years. This tendency needs to be stopped or at least slowed down for the benefit of the nation.
Northern Ireland is not the only part of the UK in which the alarming tendency has been tracked. “Scotland is turning into a nation of single parents. Nearly 40 per cent of new babies last year were born out of wedlock – the highest figure since records began. Dundee had the highest proportion of births outside of marriage – 51.4 per cent. Glasgow came second with 50.7 per cent, but East Dunbartonshire had the lowest figure, at just under 20 per cent. Overall, 59,440 children were born last year, with 38 per cent – 22,388 – being to unmarried parents.” (One in 5 babies Grows Up With No Fathers, 2004, p.2). Such data could never be appropriate for previous years. Such a boom of births of children born outside of marriage is common only for the last decades. The government needs to take measures in order to stop this tendency.
Reasons of the Increasing Number of Lone Parents in the UK.
There have been many attempts to determine the reasons of the increasing number of lone parents in the UK. The major tendencies which follow this process include the increase in the divorce rate, in teen pregnancies and especially in the families with children in which mothers have never been married. Researchers have come up with explanations of the “behaviour of lone mothers, focusing on the reasons why the rational economic choices made by individuals in respect of marriage, divorce, and childbearing have changed” (Becker, 1981, p.4). Such scientists as Hardy and Crow (1991); Millar (1989); Bradshaw and Millar (1991); Bradshaw et al. (1996); Ford, Marsh, and McKay (1995) have provided a detailed research of the advantages and disadvantages of large state support of single parents and have come up with solutions of the problem, consisting in creating favourable terms of employment for lone parents.
There are also some researchers who have done studies of children growing up in families with one parent. The results of the research are very different. According to such scientists, as Wallerstein and Kelly (1980) and Cockett and Tripp (1994), the fact that children get brought up in families with one parent does not have any influence on their abilities. Such children have a chance to succeed in life just like those who were brought up in two-parent families. However, there are different points of view on this issue. For example, “research has indicated that children who grow up without fathers are likely to do worse at school, suffer worse health and face a more difficult start to adult life than those with two parents. They are also, according to the Home Office and police forces, more likely to commit crimes.” (Helm, 2000, p.15).
According to the opinion of Catholic Church, there is a big difference between children brought up in families with two parents and only one parent. Children who have lone parents do not get everything in life they need to have. Church of Scotland has also expressed an opinion about the evil tendency of the increased number of lone parents. However, it is very difficult for church to influence the choice of parents. Their morals have changed very much in the recent years, and efforts of church do not result in many saved marriages.
There are many people who consider it normal for children to have just one parent. For example, Liz Foster who is the director of a single parent agency has said that “we have to accept that the concept of the family means different things to different people today. The most important thing is that a child gets the full support of both its parents, whether they are married in the traditional sense of the word or not.” (One in 5 babies Grows Up With No Fathers, 2004, p.2).
However, the tendency which is going on in the society in the last years cannot be considered healthy by any means. One of its characteristic features is the increased number of teen pregnancies. “The biggest worry among family support groups was the rise in teenagers falling pregnant during the same period. There were 44,100 pregnancies in the 16-18 age group and 8,400 among the under-16s. The under-16 conception rate stayed the same at 8.9 per 1,000 girls. Just under half go on to give birth, the report says. It means Britain still has by far the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe.” (Consumer, 2000, p.8).
Teen girls do not completely understand what sex can result in. Therefore, they take it as a complete surprise when they get pregnant and eventually give birth to a baby. This is one of the greatest problems of lone parents in the UK nowadays. If a mature woman decides to have a child without being married, the child can actually get some good care in the family. The woman is ready for his birth, and she will devote all of her time to him. Nevertheless, if a teen girl becomes a lone mother, she cannot give enough care to the child because she is a child herself. Even if she decides to keep the child, she is not going to provide for him at the necessary level.
The government needs to get involved in this situation and take measures in order to prevent teen girls from becoming lone mothers. Without different campaigns provided by the government, the tendency which we have nowadays is only going to get worse.
Lone Parents and Budget Expenses.
The government needs to be particularly concerned about the issues dealing with the expenses of the budget for lone parents. “During the 1990s the polemical literature on lone mothers, which is often fiercely party political, has been vast. Right-wing ‘think tanks’ have produced a stream of material deploring the ‘end of the family’, some of it written by Left-leaning writers, who are equally upset about what they perceive as the end of stable working-class communities. The titles of the pieces that have dominated the debate in the media have stressed above all the cost of lone mother families to the state.” (Kiernan, Land, Lewis, 1998, p.1).
In many ways, lone parents have actually become burdens for the state nowadays. There have been carried many discussions about the benefits which lone parents are getting due to the fact that they bring their kids up alone. At the same time, those parents who are married and live together, do not have such benefits when bringing their children up. The discussion about the gap between the support of lone parents in comparison with the state support of complete families has been carried on for a very long time. For example, in 1990 Margaret Thatcher considered it very unfair when “men fathered a child and then absconded, leaving the single mother – and the tax payer – to foot the bill for their irresponsibility and condemning the child to a lower standard of living.” (Kiernan, Land, Lewis, 1998, p.197). It was obvious that when fathers refused to take care of their children in the future, mothers were unable to give a good financial support to them. The government needed to interfere with that and provide support to single mothers. Margaret Thatcher stated that support for lone parents was particularly important. As she mentioned, “I insisted that a new Child Support Agency be set up and that maintenance be based not just on the cost of bringing up a child but on that child’s right to share in its parents’ rising living standards. This was the background to the 1991 Child Support Act. (Thatcher 1995: 630).
Even though this kind of policy was particularly helpful at the time when it was applied, very soon it became contradictable with the policy regarding parents who were raising their children together. Peter Lilley had to respond to critics concerning the gap between the welfare of lone parents and two-parent families. In order to achieve that, he “revived controversial proposals to limit benefits for lone parent families which were abandoned after the ‘back to basics’ fiasco last year. . . . The decision to return to the issue of unmarried mothers follows growing concern in Whitehall over figures suggesting that the numbers of lone-parent families claiming income support will grow by 50,000 a year to the end of the century. . . . Two-parent families face a notional bill of £1,700 per household to meet the costs of lone parenthood.” (Kiernan, Land, Lewis, 1998, p.205).
The step taken by the government was particularly vital due to the fact that in many sources the government policy regarding lone parents was considered very inefficient. For example, even comic pictures appeared in order to show the mistakes the government makes by giving significant financial to lone parents. “A BBC TV Panorama programme broadcast in September 1993 went out under the title: “Babies on Benefit”. The iconography accompanying newspaper discussion of the issue has also been striking. The Sunday Times piece showed a mother leading a man with ‘state benefits’ stamped across his face to the altar, with a number of children following on behind. This lone mother was no hapless victim.” (Kiernan, Land, Lewis, 1998, p.2). Many other pictures like that followed. The major reason of their appearance was the government policy inefficiency. Lone parents needed financial support in the previous years, but now the government needed to encourage them to go to work rather than hope for the income support. Instead of spending the government’s money, the lone parents needed to contribute to the country’s development in some way. They cannot depend on the state for a very long period of time. The government needs to assist them and organize different kinds of opportunities for them to combine parenthood with work. However, it cannot finance all of their needs only because they happen to be lone parents.
However, there are opposite points of view on the problem. There are people who argue for extra government support of lone parents. As Liz Foster has mentioned, “what is important is that society recognises this shift and offers more support to single parents. There is belated Government recognition for the need for child care benefit, which will help get lone parents back into work.” (One in 5 babies Grows Up With No Fathers, 2004, p.2). Other employees of single parent agencies also argue that as long as families with lone parents get sufficient support from government, their children are going to lead a very happy life. The government needs to give enough support particularly to single mothers who feel great lack of financial resources when providing for their children.
Even though people who support lone parents claim that government needs to give financial support to them, there can be a good alternative for government financial support in this matter. For example, the government can offer good possibilities for work to single mothers. It is clear than women are much more independent nowadays than they were in the past. They have showed that they can do many types of jobs and would like to work on equal terms with men. This can be taken as a starting point for different government programs for lone mothers nowadays. Such mothers could provide for their children very well if the government provided them with favourable terms of work. In case of such program adoption, it would be very important to make sure the company and the single mother working in it carry out the terms favourable for both of them. “What we need is a “parents’ contract” that would link child care and work firmly together. All parents (including married ones) should be invited to sign on for training or work when their children reach nursery school age at three.” (Phillips, 1997, p.22).
At the same time, the government would have to provide all the necessary care for the child while the mother is working. As long as the mother is in the office, local authorities would have to take care of the child at the highest level. This type of policy would be favourable both for the government and for the lone parents. On one hand, the government would not have to put such a burden on the budget due to large sums of financial support for lone parents. On the other hand, lone parents would not depend on the government as much. They would be able to get a good job and have a great career, even though they have to take care of a child themselves. Some research has been carried out concerning the economic benefits of organizing government support of lone parents according to the mentioned scheme. As its results have shown, it would be a very favourable approach in the future.
The problem of lone parents is very vital nowadays in the UK. The government needs to pay maximum attention to it because this tendency is only getting worse with years. Without government interference, nation’s health and social structure can be even further damaged.
In our opinion, it is very important for the government provide not the financial support for lone parents but carry out a program according to which the morals of people will be changing. As the investigation shows, many authors argue that children brought up in families which one parent have problems in life. The fact that the government is going to help them financially is not going to change the situation. Even if children have money to live on, they might still become criminals because they do not have fathers to explain them what is right and what is wrong. The government needs to organize campaigns which will stimulate people to get married and not have kids outside marriage. There also have to be many campaigns organized in schools which will show to teenagers the disadvantages of being parents in the early age. Even if teenagers get married for the sake of the child, this marriage will not be long-lasting, and people will get divorced when the child grows up a little.
The situation in which UK has currently appeared is very alarming. There is no way to change the attitude of people without providing mass government campaigns. The government should not stay away from the problem of lone parents nowadays. There is no way this problem will get resolved by itself. The nation needs to be healthy and it cannot be healthy if children grow up in families with just one parents. Children cannot be happy in families in which the mother is still a teenager. There can be exceptions but the rule will always remain the same. Only the government can break the negative tendency which has appeared in the recent years. There is nothing what the government could do in the middle of the 20th century when many men died in the Second World War, and many women remained without husbands. However, the government can take measures in trying to rebuild the family orientation in the nation. There can be divorces between people, it might happen that women will get pregnant without marriage, but it cannot be considered a rule in the society. There is still a possibility for the government to take some actions in order to solve the problem of lone parents. In our opinion, it should give more financial support not lone parents but to two-parent families in order to stimulate people to stay together. Marriage and family need to be a norm for the society and not an exception.
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