Monday, 1 July 2013

Shoring up the family

 I heard on the news today that David Cameron is going to introduce an £150 tax break to" incentivise" marriage, perhaps because some sectors have been very bitter about the fact that the Coalition Government has been rather tardy in carrying out what was a manifesto pledge whilst moving ahead with the matter of same sex marriage. However, even this simple tax concession has stirred strong ideological feelings as shown by the don't judge my family campaign which accuses the Government of "using the tax system to promote their fantasy Fifties family" whilst discriminating against, for example, women who have left a marriage to escape domestic violence. Those who support this  move argue that the emotional and financial cost of family breakdown in Britain is too great a cause for concern for the Government not to take steps to promote marriage. Those who oppose it speak up for those who are not married but who are still in committed relationships.
One of the problems at the heart of this kind of divide is that human relationships and circumstances are of necessity so varied and diverse that we fall into the trap of generalising and often judging unfairly when we do not consider each and every person and situation for who and what they are. I am sure I was not the only person who was pretty appalled to hear that nearly a million children live in fatherless households, at the same time, I am someone who is acutely aware that not all households with fathers are safe, happy and stable environments for women or children. Moreover, there are many single parents doing an excellent job of bringing up children, same sex couples who are great parents, many parents who are single because they are widowed, step families who cope well with the complex relationships. Statistics, such as that children do better educationally from married families, seem compelling until we realise that most married people are more qualified/ educated and so this is to be expected. Real people lie behind statistics, and real people are not so easy to categorise.
I suspect that there are truths on either side of this particular divide- perhaps we do need to act to mend a "broken Britain". Undoubtedly though the issue is not simple and it seems very unlikely that the qualities and attitudes which lie at the heart of strong relationships and stable families can be bought or bribed for £150 pounds, or indeed with any amount of money at all.

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