Friday, July 20, 2007

"Single parents to be forced back to work"

There are some huge and silly assumptions in the title sentence, which I took from the thread about this news story on one of the HE lists. The news story concerns the green paper published by DWP this week: In work, better off: next steps to full employment, and accompanying public consultation (deadline: 31st October). I might respond to this consultation if I think my response might make a difference to anything, but I don't intend to get sidetracked from the one about home education (deadline: end of this month.)

The government has been trying very hard to 'change hearts and minds' on the single parent issue for a long time now, under the guise of 'eliminating child poverty', for interesting and complicated reasons, I think. The main reason being that Western economies depend on the majority of the population living in nuclear families and both adults being in full-time paid employment. A quick glance at the graph here shows how much this is changing though.

So I don't think this latest flurry is about winning votes, as much as being about maintaining the status quo, and ensuring that unhappy, overworked, stress-ridden housewives don't get the idea that the grass might be greener on the other side.

But I think about work and leisure in a slightly different way, though I see I haven't blogged sufficiently about this, and will remedy that soon. Suffice, in this post, to say that single parents do work, and that 'sitting around watching TV all day', as someone accused us all of doing on the list in question, is actually harder work, in my opinion, than working. I wouldn't dream of living that way: it would be boring, I'd probably become obese, my brain would atrophy and my children would suffer horribly.

No, as a home educating single mother of five, I'm on call 24/7, every day of the year. If I'm not washing, cleaning, tidying, fixing or making something then I'm reading a story, discussing a principle with someone, driving someone somewhere, doing the necessary paperwork which enables us to live, shopping for food, cooking or foraging. Often I'm doing several of the above at once. I work far harder than many people in their salaried employment, and for significantly longer hours. To replace me they'd have to pay someone about £30 per hour for 24 hours a day - several someones, actually, but we'll just count them as one for the purpose of this sum. Yes: it'd be about 20x the amount I'm currently costing the state.

So this is not about money, and it's not about work. It's about the idea that we're all dependent on employers or the government and we must toe the line and behave ourselves and be good little consumers, so that the money-go-round keeps turning, so the rich can get richer and the poor can get poorer.

The issue will come down to who is 'available for work' and who isn't. For what it's worth, I don't believe that any single parents will be 'forced back to work'.

More on this later, when I've finished with this. :-)


Blogger Allie said...

I interpreted it as 'single parents will be harassed, badgered and have their time wasted until they get a job.'

Dani reckons you could turn up at any arranged interviews with child(ren) in tow and that would pretty much guarantee you didn't get the job.

July 21, 2007 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes, good thinking.

The 'full employment' aim is spooky in itself, isn't it? I thought I'd blogged loads about it, but can't find the posts now.

Maybe I just dreamt I did!

July 21, 2007 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Louise said...

I have my single parent interview tomorrow - every 6 months now (3 for some). My friend said she had received a form asking for her qualifications/what work she would consider etc. but has not sent it in as it was not compulsory. That is the line I will take tomorrow. I will not back myself in a corner but I can't deny I have been thinking of post children work plans as I would need a few years tarining/study first....

July 23, 2007 at 9:28 PM  
Blogger Gill said...

Do people have to be threatened to go to 'work'?

It amazes me that people assume, as single parents, we're not *working* already!

If we're spending our time with our children and facilitating their lives, as all the single parents I know do 16 hours a day at least, and if we're providing our children with the stability and facilities they need to live healthily and happily, is this not *work*?

At one time, *work* meant something creative - now it just talks about money. I could stand behind a shop till, or sit behind a desk answering the phone all day and wouldn't be doing a tenth as much work as I do at home.

August 18, 2007 at 9:02 AM  

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