Adoption reform not a minute too soon

It is a national disgrace that there are 3,600 under one year old babies languishing in council care. The story in The Guardian this morning that a new scheme Give A Child A  Home will require councils to work faster and in a  less bureaucratic way to find new homes for children. Knowing people who have gone through the process of becoming adoptive parents the pendulum had swung too far towards suspicion of the motives of prospective parents. Every aspect of their lives was analysed and probed with the emphasis being for them to prove that they would make good parents. Cutting red tape seems to be an anthem for this government and this is one area in which it will be welcomed by the many people who put themselves forward to adopt. At present only 60 babies a year are adopted into families out of 3,600.

A big push on encouraging more families to come forward to provide foster care is also happening and this is desperately needed. Councils will also be judged on the educational attainment of children who are in council care – this is another area which badly needs monitoring. The needs of children living in council homes is a subject which gets very little press coverage and we shouldn’t forget these vulnerable children by placing the emphasis entirely on adoption.

 

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Will Caesarean births become the norm?

The lead story in the Sunday Times this morning reveals that for the first time the NHS will be required to allow women to have an elective caesarean when there is no medical need. I am a mum to five children – four born in NHS hospitals and one born suddenly at home. I have never had a caesarean, although with my fifth child a problem with his heart rate during labour meant I came very close. My view is that birth is already over-medicalised. When I went into sudden labour in the early hours of the morning with my daughter she was born before an ambulance arrived. We had no option but to let nature take it’s course and nature did an amazing job. I am not recommending giving birth in this way because although my husband did brilliantly helping our daughter into the world, so many things could have gone wrong.
If elective caesarans become available to all women I fear before too long, natural birth will be sidelined. Birth will become a a production line process. I am not against caesarean birth at all, but I would hate the tide to turn so far in favour babies born via surgery that my daughters generation come to view natural labour as old fashioned.

The Future of the Welfare State

John Humphrey’s look at the future of the Welfare State managed to trot out examples of all the stereotypes that are portrayed in the media when the subject of benefits is brought up.

There was the family living in a house in Islington which had a rent of £2300 – it didn’t look like a particularly luxurious house to my northern eyes. London house prices are ridiculous and some allowance within the system must be made for the huge weekly sums families have to pay. Should families who are on housing benefit already have to uproot their children and lives to move to another area because their housing benefit will be capped – somehow that doesn’t sit well with me.

The person who resonated most with me was the single mother at the Merseyside jobs club. She was trapped in the cycle of trying to find a job which fitted in with available hours of childcare – I empathized with her argument that she couldn’t get childcare which started early enough and which she could afford, as well as the frustrating reality that she would only be worse off if she took a job. Her tears were genuine. We need to bring down the price of childcare in this country and make it  more flexible in terms of opening hours and availability of places. I relied on family to help with my childcare when I returned to work as there were no part-time child care places available but many families don’t have anyone who can help.

The incapacity benefit claimant was less convincing to me and of all the people interviewed came across as the one who had the biggest sense of entitlement. She made little comment about wanting to get back to work which gave the impression that a long-term stint on benefits was fine by her. This is one of the trickiest areas of benefit reform for the government. It needs to be handled sensitively and fairly. Many many claims for incapacity benefit are being dropped before they reach the stage of a medical – is this evidence that the claim was invalid or that people are in despair and can’t fight the new system?

Tax Credits introduced by Labour have been a contentious issue from day one. It is frustrating that we know another large family in which only one parent works who brings in a huge amount of money in Tax credits whilst in our household my husband works long hours as a teacher for not much more money. Tax Credits can be a disincentive to promotion – when considering at a step up the teaching Upper Pay Scale we found ourselves asking “what would it do to the tax credits?” – our finances are so finely balanced that a pay rise which meant a drop in Tax Credits or a cut in child benefit would be a disaster. This is not the “go for it” conversation that a family should be having when discussing whether to try make progress.

The cutting of child benefit to higher rate tax payers is something I am not in support of as a blanket policy. A family on just over £43,000 a year with several children and living in the South-East will not be in a position to manage without child benefit. The anomaly where a family with one earner only who is in the higher tax bracket loses child benefit but a family with two earners paying lower tax but an income of £60,000 etc can keep it must be addressed. A system where very high earning families are allowed to nominate a charity to receive their child benefit is one alternative.

Next Budget day will be a nail-biting one for many families around the country. The months ahead will be difficult as changes to the welfare state begin to kick in.Like or dislike the coalition government I admire their courage in tackling one of the most expensive bills on the table –  it’s political dynamite!

Fair treatment for Debtors

If a household has decided they want to pay back their debt but aren’t in a position to go down the route of a formal solution such as an IVA or bankruptcy.  Sensible debtors negotiate directly with creditors or seek the advice of one of the free debt charities such as www.cccs.co.uk or www.payplan.com. They will arrange a debt management plan which is an informal arrangement between debtor and creditor. Once  a budget has been set the debtor will use any surplus to pay back the debt over a period of time. The issue with Debt Management Plan’s or DMP is that they are an informal arrangement and there is no requirement for banks to reduce or stop interest which can sometime mean the debt continues to grow. Forums on www.moneysavingexpert.com bear testimony to the difficulities debtors have with banks even when they are not hiding from their debt and want to pay it off.

Banks should be required to freeze interest on all debt were a debtor has entered a DMP with a recognised third-party free debt advice organisation. At present debtors rely on the goodwill of the banks to freeze interest and this is very often not forthcoming. We as tax payers have bailed out the banks – the EU is coming together to bail out Greece – our banks should treat with fairness customers who have stopped using credit and want to pay back every penny of their debt.

Turning point for the debt crisis?

As the FTSE 100 rises on the news that a deal has been reached to deal with greek debt how many ordinary UK householders are wishing that their banks would show the same forebearance with them?

Households across the country are finally having their “lightbulb” moment as they realise they have pushed the plastic until it has snapped and are looking to pay back their debt. Here in the Mammapolitico household we had our own debt crisis in 2009 when my temporary teaching contract came to an end accompanied by the arrival of baby number five. We cut up our cards and since then have never used another penny of credit.

This is no easy task with five children and only one member of the household working.we negotiated with lenders – some were fantastic some were a nightmare. With interest rates pushed up to 35% on one credit card alone there was no alternative but to stop borrowing and pay back. We budget hard, make meals from scratch, and are teaching our children to do the same.

It will be a long and hard road lightened by moments of humour – as my husband commented this morning “at least we’re not in as much of a mess as Greece!”

Cheaper to make them yourself and twice as tasty !!

Mammapolitico – the kick off !

So the first post – what is Mammapolitico all about?
In short its about getting politicians and policymakers to sit up and take notice of the voice of ordinary parents. No more policies made in a vaccuum – no more talk of the “squeezed middle “without really understanding what that means. Mammapolitico will tackle the news of the day and current issues from the perspective of an ordinary parent.