Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Staying contact - not for children of the low paid, disabled or unemployed

Glued to our home page until election day! Remember, remember, 12th of November...

Last night's (14th November 2013) vote in the House of Commons saw the Government protect its coveted bedroom tax, and in doing so, irreparably harm their manifesto commitments to support shared parenting. The consequences for children of separated parents is likely to be severe.

The bedroom tax affects many people, but today I am focusing purely on the impact on children of non-resident parents and children whose parents share care and need housing benefit.

The consequences for these children and parents is likely to be severe.

Many parents need housing benefit. They may be low paid, unemployed or disabled. If these are non-resident parents, they will see their benefits cut to pressurize them into moving to a one bedroom property or bedsit. Consider too, that even resident parents, where residence is shared, may have this restriction on their accommodation.

The big question... will CAFCASS deem this accommodation to be unsuitable for staying contact?

Not long ago, Lord Freud advised parents affected by the bedroom tax to buy a sofa bed for their children when they stay as the tax would mean they no longer have a bedroom. A parent responded, asking if it was appropriate for his two sons and daughter to share a single bed. The Minister didn't have an answer.

Is it right, that a child's right to family life will be protected if you are wealthy, but not if you are poor, low paid or disabled and on benefits?

The Coalition promise of shared parenting being introduced in law is all but dead. The Children and Families Bill has had that wording removed. A 'presumption of meaningful involvement' for both parents has seen the word meaningful removed, and even now, the presumption of any involvement is being opposed in the House of Lords.

The case for both parents having a full involvement in their children's lives... being parents, having their children stay in their homes... children considering the parent's house as their home... children having a bedroom and their 'own space' is fully supported by child welfare research.

David Davies MP recommended the parents of these children, disabled, on low income, or unemployed, be put in chains for not being able to afford a bedroom for their children. Easy for 75% of MPs to have a withering view of the less fortunate, when they themselves are millionaires. John Major commented last weekend that the Government was at risk of being out of touch and elitist. It is out of touch and elitist.

Dame Shirley Williams, stalwart of the LibDems admits the bedroom tax is a 'mistake'. Charles Kennedy, previous leader of the LibDems voted against the bedroom tax at the party conference, but then abstained when it mattered. Nick Clegg too abstained. Poor Nick seems to have over-applied the yellow colour of his party, as a streak down his back. The ex and current LibDem leaders were joined in this display of poor memory by Vince Cable and another 19 LibDem MPs. How can you know what they stand for, when they themselves don't seem to know?

The United Nations have criticised the bedroom tax. A spokesman on Radio4 said the tax represents a "danger of a retrogression in the right to adequate housing" in the UK and has been designed "without the human component in mind". They recommend its suspension.

The Coalition has handed a powerful weapon to the hostile resident parent who seeks to interfere with children's relationships with the other parent. Court measures to counteract this, defined in case law in cases such as A v A and D v D are now made impractical for the marginalised in society.

Broken contact will increase, parental alienation become easier to manipulate, and the court's options be reduced.

The greatest perversity is that Ian Duncan-Smith founded an institute, the Centre for Social Justice, and their research  found fatherlessness to be a primary cause of Broken Britain. A few years later, IDS introduces a policy which pours petrol on the fire.

Today's Guardian headline, that the LibDems joined Labour in opposing the tax, is a joke. Only two MPs did. Amazingly, John Hemming, the MP who Chairs the 'Justice for Families' campaign group was not among them. He tells opponents that people affected by the bedroom tax can rent out their spare room. For non-resident parents, one wonders how acceptable this would be, for an unveted stranger to be in the house, with the children or parent sleeping in the living room (or should the children and lodger share?). It appears Mr Hemming isn't considering the reality for families affected by a policy he supports, or proposes an arrangement jeopardising child safety.

Only two of John Hemming's fellow LibDem MPs opposed the tax last night, while the rest ignored the majority opposition to the tax expressed at the LibDem conference. One has to question who this man and the rest of the LibDem MPs (bar two) represent. Not their party or his campaign group!

John Hemming does not trust social workers. He believes them to unreasonably interfere in family lives, and sever child/parent relationships. Bizarre then, that he'd seemingly empower them to find thousands of parents' homes to be unsuitable for children to live in. He seems a man with confused agendas.

Andrew George and Tim Farron were the only two LibDem MPs who consider child welfare, and vote with their conscience. Andrew George said:

"The spare room penalty/bedroom tax victimises the most marginalised in our communities, it undermines family life, it penalises the hard working low paid for being prepared to stomach low paid work, it masks the excessive cost and disruption caused to those disabled people who have to move from expensively adapted homes and is Dickensian in its social divisiveness.

I hope that those Ministers who live in multiple spare room mansions and who strenuously oppose the Liberal Democrat "Mansion Tax" will be prepared to look the victims of this policy in the eye. Even where those affected are prepared to move to up root themselves from a long standing family home to a smaller property they tell me they can't find anything within 20 - 30 miles. So to escape the bedroom tax they would have to move many miles from their community, their work place, local school, family and social networks, church etc. and re-establish themselves in a place which they may consider to be completely alien. Or of course they could choose a property in the private sector and cost the taxpayer more!"

I couldn't agree more.

So the unemployed, disabled or low paid non-resident parent has another choice. They can move further away from their children, making contact even less likely. It makes involvement in schooling almost impossible. So much for the DfES research which shows children benefit from both parents being involved with the school.

There is another argument put forward that welfare cuts have to happen. Sure they do, but there is an opportunity cost in any decision. I would point out that Iain Duncan-Smith, the Minister who came up with the bedroom tax, is also responsible for £140million being wasted on the Universal Credit System. That money would pay 10,000,000 weeks of bedroom tax.

Consider too, that the decision to cut the upper tax rate, and decision not to introduce a mansion tax is made possible by the Government forcing children of the marginalised to sleep on floors, or in the worst cases, out of one parent's life completely.

Some MPs didn't vote at all, and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. The ones who did break their promises, are listed below.

Remember both parties made manifesto commitments to support shared parenting. Please don't vote for these named MPs again. It's not a party political matter, but a child welfare matter, and a matter of trust and priorities.

Not so much 'NONE OF THE ABOVE', but 'NONE OF THE BELOW' come election time.

  • Adams, Nigel, Mr
  • Afriyie, Adam, Mr
  • Aldous, Peter, Mr
  • Arbuthnot, James, Rt Hon
  • Bacon, Richard, Mr
  • Baker, Steve, Mr
  • Barclay, Stephen, Mr
  • Baron, John, Mr
  • Bellingham, Henry, Mr
  • Benyon, Richard, Mr
  • Beresford, Paul, Sir
  • Bingham, Andrew, Mr
  • Binley, Brian, Mr
  • Blackman, Bob, Mr
  • Bone, Peter, Mr
  • Bottomley, Peter, Mr
  • Bradley, Karen, Ms
  • Brady, Graham, Mr
  • Bray, Angie, Ms
  • Three line Aye
  • Bridgen, Andrew, Mr
  • Brine, Steve, Mr
  • Burns, Conor, Mr
  • Burns, Simon, Mr
  • Burt, Alistair, Mr
  • Byles, Dan
  • Cameron, David, Rt Hon
  • Carswell, Douglas, Mr
  • Cash, William
  • Chishti, Rehman, Mr
  • Chope, Christopher, Mr
  • Clappison, James, Mr
  • Clark, Greg, Mr
  • Clarke, Kenneth, Rt Hon
  • Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey, Mr
  • Coffey, Thérèse, Ms
  • Collins, Damian, Mr
  • Colville, Oliver
  • Cox, Geoffrey, Mr
  • Crabb, Stephen, Mr
  • Crouch, Tracey, Ms
  • Davies, David T C, Mr
  • Davies, Glyn, Mr
  • Davies, Philip, Mr
  • Dinenage Caroline, Ms
  • Djangoly, Jonathan, Mr
  • Dorrell, Stephen, Rt Hon
  • Doyle-Price, Jackie, Ms
  • Drax, Richard, Mr
  • Dunne, Philip, Mr
  • Ellis, Michael, Mr
  • Ellison, Jane, Ms
  • Ellwood, Tobias, Mr
  • Elphicke, Charlie, Mr
  • Eustice, George, Mr
  • Evans, Graham, Mr
  • Evans, Jonathan, Mr
  • Evennett, David
  • Fallon, Michael, Mr
  • Field, Mark, Mr
  • Freer, Mike, Mr
  • Fuller, Richard, Mr
  • Garnier, Edward, Mr
  • Garnier, Mark, Mr
  • Gibb, Nick, Mr
  • Gillian, Cheryl, Rt Hon
  • Glen, John, Mr
  • Goodwill, Robert, Mr
  • Gove, Michael, Rt Hon
  • Grant, Helen, Ms
  • Gray, James, Mr
  • Grayling, Chris, Mr
  • Green, Damian, Mr
  • Griffiths, Andrew, Mr
  • Gummer, Ben
  • Gyimah, Sam, Mr
  • Hammond, Stephen, Mr
  • Hancock, Matthew, Mr
  • Hands, Greg, Mr
  • Harper, Mark, Mr
  • Harrington, Richard, Mr
  • Harris, Rebecca, Ms
  • Hart, Simon, Mr
  • Hayes, John, Mr
  • Heald, Oliver, Mr
  • Heaton-Harris, Chris, Mr
  • Hendry, Charles, Mr
  • Herbert, Nick, Mr
  • Hinds, Damian, Mr
  • Hollingbery, George, Mr
  • Hollobone, Philip, Mr
  • Holloway, Adam, Mr
  • Hopkins, Kris, Mr
  • Howarth, Gerald, Mr
  • Howell, John, Mr
  • Hunt, Jeremy, Rt Hon
  • Jackson, Stewart, Mr
  • James, Margot, Ms
  • Javid, Sajid, Mr
  • Jenkin, Bernard, Mr
  • Johnson, Gareth, Mr
  • Jones, Andrew, Mr
  • Jones, David, Mr
  • Jones, Marcus, Mr
  • Kelly, Chris, Mr
  • Knight, Greg, Mr
  • Kwarteng, Kwasi, Mr
  • Lancaster, Mark, Mr
  • Lansley, Andrew, Rt Hon
  • Latham, Pauline, Ms
  • Leadsom, Andrea, Ms
  • Lee, Jessica, Ms
  • Lee, Phillip
  • Lewis, Brandon, Mr
  • Lewis, Julian, Mr
  • Liddell-Grainger, Ian, Mr
  • Lidington, David, Mr
  • Lopresti, Jack, Mr
  • Lord, Jonathan, Mr
  • Luff, Peter, Mr
  • Main, Anne, Ms
  • Maude, Francis, Rt Hon
  • May, Theresa, Rt Hon
  • Maynard, Paul, Mr
  • Mccartney, Jason, Mr
  • Mccartney, Karl, Mr
  • Mcintosh, Anne, Ms
  • Mcpartland, Stephen, Mr
  • Mcvey, Esther, Ms
  • Menzies, Mark, Mr
  • Miller, Maria, Ms
  • Mills, Nigel, Mr
  • Mordaunt, Penny, Ms
  • Morgan, Nicky, Mr
  • Morris, David, Mr
  • Mosley, Stephen, Mr
  • Mowat, David, Mr
  • Mundell, David, Mr
  • Murray, Sheryll, Ms
  • Murrison, Andrew, Mr
  • Neill, Robert, Mr
  • Newmark, Brooks, Mr
  • Newton, Sarah, Ms
  • Nokes, Caroline, Ms
  • Nuttall, David, Mr
  • O'Brien Stephen, Mr
  • Ollernshaw, Eric
  • Opperman, Guy, Mr
  • Ottaway, Richard, Mr
  • Paice, James, Mr
  • Parish, Neil, Mr
  • Patel, Priti, Ms
  • Penning, Mike, Mr
  • Penrose, John, Mr
  • Perry, Claire, Ms
  • Phillips, Stephen, Mr
  • Pickles, Eric, Rt Hon
  • Pincher, Christopher
  • Poulter, Daniel, Mr
  • Prisk, Mark, Mr
  • Pritchard, Mark, Mr
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  • Randall, John, Mr
  • Redwood, John, Rt Hon
  • Rees-Mogg, Jacob, Mr
  • Reevell, Simon, Mr
  • Robertson, Hugh, Mr
  • Roberston, Laurence, Mr
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  • Rudd, Amber, Ms
  • Ruffley, David, Mr
  • Rutley, David, Mr
  • Sandys, Laura, Ms
  • Scott, Lee, Mr
  • Selous, Andrew, Mr
  • Shapps, Grant, Mr
  • Shelbrooke, Alec, Mr
  • Shepherd, Richard, Mr
  • Simpson, Keith, Mr
  • Skidmore, Chris, Mr
  • Smith, Henry, Mr
  • Smith, Julian, Mr
  • Soames, Nicholas, Hon
  • Soubry, Anna, Ms
  • Spelman, Caroline, Rt Hon
  • Stanley, John, Rt Hon Sir
  • Stephenson, Andrew, Mr
  • Stevenson, John, Mr
  • Stewart, Bob, Mr
  • Stewart, Iain, Mr
  • Streeter, Gary, Mr
  • Stride, Mel, Mr
  • Stuart, Graham, Mr
  • Sturdy, Julian, Mr
  • Swayne, Desmond, Mr
  • Syms, Robert, Mr
  • Tapsell, Peter, Mr
  • Timpson, Edward, Mr
  • Tomlinson, Justin, Mr
  • Tredinnick, David, Mr
  • Truss, Elizabeth, Ms
  • Turner, Andrew, Mr
  • Tyrie, Andrew, Mr
  • Uppal, Paul, Mr
  • Vaizey, Edward
  • Vara, Shailesh, Mr
  • Vickers, Martin, Mr
  • Walker, Charles, Mr
  • Wallace, Ben, Mr
  • Wharton, James, Mr
  • Wheeler, Heather, Ms
  • White, Chris, Mr
  • Whittingdale, John, Mr
  • Wiggin, Bill, Mr
  • Williamson, Gavin, Mr
  • Wilson, Rob
  • Wollaston, Sarah, Ms
  • Wright, Jeremy, Mr
  • Yeo, Tim, Mr
  • Young, George, Sir Rt Hon
  • Norman Baker (Lewes)
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  • Jeremy Browne (Taunton Deane)
  • Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)
  • Paul Burstow (Sutton & Cheam)
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  • Don Foster (Bath)
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  • Dan Rogerson (Cornwall North)
  • Bob Russell (Colchester)
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  • Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove)
  • Jo Swinson (Dunbartonshire East)
  • John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross)
  • Steve Webb (Thornbury & Yate)
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