Parenthood is philanthrophy, not a crime

Should the number of children you have be determined by your wealth? This is the implication of Jeremy Hunt’s pronouncement; the very rich can have large families, those at the bottom rung of society’s ladder must be abstemious.

There are many things wrong with Mr Hunt’s desire to cap benefits to “reflected the need for long-term claimants to take responsibility for the number of children they have”.

You could be working whilst having children then fall on hard times. Any of us could lose our jobs. I have six children, although only two are dependent nowadays. I have been fortunate that aside from a couple of short-breaks in employment I have worked continuously since I was sixteen. However, I could have come unstuck – what then?

Then there are those forbidden by their beliefs from using contraception or having abortions – do they offer up their children for adoption? This strikes me as not only morally repulsive but also expensive.

And the kids? Children beyond the cap will be penalised when their only crime is to be alive. Taking money away will force already poor families to take tough decisions. Malnutrition and poor health could be one outcome, as would crime when desperate families are forced to take desperate measures.

Of course, the Tories are repeatedly blind to the variety of families that now exist. Their predilection for social engineering a society of the supposed ideal nuclear family flies in the face of what modern British people want.

But Mr Hunt ignores the biggest facture in family size. All statistics show that poorer societies have bigger families and his aim ought to be to create a wealthier and egalitarian society if he wishes to drive down the birth-rate. To do this he should support the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, regardless of the choice of family size. Having a family is not a crime. Children are the future, and those who make sacrifices to have a family should not be stigmatised or punished.

Whilst there are undoubtedly some who see having children as an escape route from troubled circumstances or a way to avoid what they see as unpleasant work, surely the answer here is education and efforts to improve these peoples’ life chances? The scape-goating tactics may only be a cipher, but it signals an unpleasant direction for a country that used to known for its tolerance. Besides, I knock on many doors and have not seen vast hordes of work-shy parents.

Being a parent is rewarding, it is also a philanthropic act – a gift to the future. Jeremy Hunt is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Six million victims

My latest LabourList posting can be read here: