Friday, February 22, 2013

Is child poverty really a problem in the UK?

From Brother Ivo:

Brother Ivo is a post-war baby boomer. He came into the world in an East London council house of which his parents were not the lawful tenants. He was born into a world of food rationing, and remembers his mother buying broken biscuits. His generation went to primary schools with outside toilets; were taught by unqualified teachers; and yet that generation was among the best-educated and healthiest in British history. There was only one television station, and he enjoyed Muffin the Mule which he watched rather than ate. He played innocently on 'bomb sites', blissfully unaware of the huge difficulties Britain faced, with its post-war debt, because it did not have the benefits which the Marshall Plan afforded to our industrial competitors. He was in his mid-40s before he had any concept of the 'Designer Logo' with which most children today are familiar, shortly after weaning.

His Counselling is long overdue.

His mind went back to those times upon hearing of a press release this week, announcing the availability of a new map of the UK. It apparently shows the areas of this country where child poverty is prevalent, and so Brother Ivo began putting his mind to the question: 'Does Britain really have a problem with Child Poverty?'

Within the context of a wider teaching , Jesus once remarked: "The poor will be with you always" (Mk 14:7).

Brother Ivo somehow doubts that when Our Lord offered that observation to his disciples, he had directly in mind that the 'End Child Poverty' campaign would be a significant agent to ensure that this would indeed always remain the case.

Plainly, this is not the campaign's intention.

The 'End Child Poverty' campaign is a wide-ranging coalition of well-meaning and often effective organisations, some charitable, some not, that work together.. to promote politically progressive policies that aspire, but probably will not manage, to achieve the purpose announced in its name.

Who could resist its title? It has all the self-congratulatory hubris of a preening pop star conducting a stadium rock anthem in which we will all rise up, fulfil our destiny, overcome all odds and achieve our goals - together. We can apparently do this by 2020 if only the state were to spend (for which read 'borrow') another £3bn. It sounds an absolute bargain.

Jesus, apparently, could not 'End Child Poverty', but fear not, it can be done - thanks to an alliance of the Bath and North Somerset District Council, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and the Fire Brigades Union.

Brother Ivo is not heartless, but one sometimes has to inject a little bathos into a critique in order to jolt the public discourse out of sloppy thinking.

Who could resist joining an organisation proclaiming commitment to such an end? 'End Child Poverty'? Add us all to this list.

One supposes this is why any number of organisations have signed up, but someone needs to seriously question the degree of analysis that went into such a decision. Supporters include the Church of England, the Mothers Union, the Rainer Foundation, the NSPCC and many more.

All are well-intentioned in their individual and collective endeavours to do good in the world. One might say they are all part of the 'Big Society' - but that would be party political and inappropriate. Far better to adopt a rhetoric and methodology of something politically neutral; something, say, entirely in keeping with the role of promoting the equality agenda of the progressive movement.

The Church of England has issued a press release in which they resist the attempts of Ian Duncan Smith’s department to try and develop a more holistic but complex approach to the definition of poverty by expanding it to include access to a good education, a decent home, stable family, and parents who are in good health. These attempts at refinement are opposed by the Church of England because it might cause 'confusion'.

There is indeed a difference between the clarity of self-misdirection and confusion that arises from a poor understanding of complexity, but that is not something to be encouraged or celebrated by the Established Church.

The Bishop of Bradford has commented upon this matter in a wider ranging piece: he comments in line with the authors of the report:
Child poverty does not just make life a little bit miserable for a child now; it affects the whole of their life, their physical growth, their education, aspiration and life opportunities. This is bad for children, families, schools and society. And it is a scandal in a so-called civilised society. We must ask serious questions about our priorities and government ministers must be made aware of the human consequences of policies made behind desks.
Now, one may criticise Mr Duncan Smith for many things, but does the Bishop truly discount the very real efforts which this particular Secretary of State made before coming into office in visiting places like Easterhouse, where he prepared with commendable thoroughness to discharge his current obligations? Is he not the Minister who created a Think Tank - the Centre for Social Justice - which is widely acknowledged to be a centre for excellence in pursuit of 'thinking the unthinkable', to offer solutions to poverty beyond throwing public money at it to no obvious long-term effect?

The Bishop might also reflect upon whether our society’s response to the poor can be fairly characterised as 'scandalous' when it is prepared to build a £400,000 house for a claimant who has never worked, given birth to 11 children, and is apparently able to maintain more than one car and a horse.

Brother Ivo might agree there is a scandal in there somewhere. But is the Bishop absolutely sure that it is a scandal of Dickensian mean-spiritedness?

The coalition's 'End Child Poverty' objective is couched in a simplistic measure of ‘poverty', and the choice of such an emotive name is not accidental.

Consider how language is used to shape the political debate. The 'Community Charge' became a vote-loser once the debate was re-cast in terms of the 'Poll Tax'. The grisly character of abortion was sanitised and became more positively presented when it regenerated itself into the woman's 'Right to Choose'. Re-defining marriage recently became the campaign for 'Equal Marriage', and it is happening once again when the compulsory 'gift' of taxpayers' money to those renting in both public and private sectors is being termed a 'Bedroom Tax' upon the recipients.

In the same way a campaign actually predicated upon narrowing income distribution is being redefined in terms of both ending poverty and benefitting children. The campaign defines poverty via a politically-conceived mathematical formula: if a child lives in a household in which the income is less than 60% of the median income (currently £26,000 in the UK), that child becomes automatically and absolutely statistically defined as 'living in poverty'. But if that average income rises, so does that 60% threshold for poverty. The poor are statistically always with us - unless, of course, we abolish income differentials. In that case, our standards of living could repeatedly halve but nobody could possibly end up 'in poverty' as nobody would be subsisting on 60% of the increasingly lower income.

Conversely, it follows that no improvement in living standards per se can change the fact that the lower 40 centiles will always be defined as 'poor'. Make everyone three times richer and you have done nothing to end poverty. All that has been actually achieved by the adoption of such a definition of poverty is that language and objectivity has been devalued. Those who opposed changing the definition of marriage might usefully exercise caution about moving the word 'poverty' from its age-old meaning equating with destitution. It is as linguistically dishonest as the Labour politician who reputedly declared that his party would not be satisfied until everyone was on 'above average wages'.

In creating a map and adopting the 60% formula, the report, deliberately or by chance, replicates the same approach of Charles Booth's work on the London poor between 1886-1903. While this may have been a useful one-off tool on a specific survey, its subsequent use as a constantly re-calibrated measure de-couples the defined term 'poverty' from all or any objective meaning.

It is rather like discussing tiny men in the context of the United States basketball league, where the 'tiniest' man on the team might be 6'4" tall.

One does not need to think for long to appreciate that 60% of a late-Victorian standard wage might be a very different level of 'poverty' from that which obtains today. The decision to define poverty in relative rather than absolute terms creates a number of unsatisfactory outcomes, both in terms of reality and analysis.

Suppose a child lives in a household of constant income. One day, 100 billionaires relocate their homes to London. The national average income has fractionally risen, yet by that one event - and with no impact on the child's income or living standards - our child has 'fallen below the poverty line'. Conversely, if, the following day, 200 billionaires take fright of government tax changes and leave, the overall and median national income has fallen, and we can all celebrate that this child, and perhaps many others, will have been 'lifted out of poverty'.

Both in reality and analytically, this is fraudulent political nonsense. But, somewhat worryingly, many good and well-meaning people have failed to spot it - or the political agenda which underlies the adoption of such a shifting definition.

Now let us us look at something altogether more more concrete.

On a world-wide basis, the United Nations adopted specific definitions of what level of deprivation constitutes 'Absolute' and 'Overall' poverty:  

Absolute poverty was defined as 'a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services'.

Overall poverty takes various forms, including 'lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods; hunger and malnutrition; ill health; limited or lack of access to education and other basic services; increased morbidity and mortality from illness; homelessness and inadequate housing; unsafe environments and social discrimination and exclusion. It is also characterised by lack of participation in decision-making and in civil, social and cultural life. It occurs in all countries: as mass poverty in many developing countries, pockets of poverty amid wealth in developed countries, loss of livelihoods as a result of economic recession, sudden poverty as a result of disaster or conflict, the poverty of low-wage workers, and the utter destitution of people who fall outside family support systems, social institutions and safety nets' (UN, 1995).

Applying these standards, it is very hard to contemplate that they seriously describe the standard of living enjoyed by those on less than 60% of the UK average income. That 60% represents £16,000. However, that figure excludes housing costs, and ignores the fact that the least well-off family in Britain enjoys not only free education for its children but also free health care and a life-long pension regardless of contribution. Neither should we ignore the huge benefits of living in a country where a vote, a jury system and a relatively uncorrupted culture can be taken for granted. Unfortunately, they are deprived of free access to broadcast services as they have to pay for the BBC whether they like it or not.

The most deprived area on the map is Tower Hamlets, which has a significant Bangladeshi population, generations of which have made a choice to relocate from an area where real poverty, life-threatening disaster and hopelessness are widespread.

Child mortality rates among the under-5s in the UK is 5.4 per thousand. In Bangladesh it is 47.8 per thousand.

A 2010 NHS report on 10-11-year-olds in Tower Hamlets recorded the incidence of obesity/overweight at 25%.

Might Brother Ivo be forgiven if he approaches talk of this being 'the most impoverished borough in Britain' with a degree of scepticism?

Now, Brother Ivo is not unsympathetic: something is wrong, and outcomes for these families can and should be improved as they begin the ascent up the economic ladder following the example of Huguenot, Jewish, Irish (and even Brother Ivo's) families before them. Wish them well, but let us preserve the values of the economic order that attracted them here in the first place.

The first rule of managing one’s way out of debt and disadvantage is to pay off debt. Yet, ironically, the 'End Child Poverty' campaign proposes further spending while we continue to borrow. If you do not wish to repeat history, it is no bad thing to re-visit our past and recall how badly the United Kingdom fared when struggling for 50 years to pay off the debt incurred in the liberation of Europe.

You would have thought that this salutary lesson would not have been lost on the Chancellor who signed the final repayment cheque - Mr Ed Balls MP.

(Posted by Brother Ivo)


Blogger Giles Cattermole said...

Good article, marred by a couple of statistical misunderstandings.

Child mortality of 5.4% in the UK would be alarming... 47.8% in Bangladesh would be catastrophic. I think you'll find instead that the figures are 5.4 and 47.8 per 1000.

And the median income will not change much if 200 billionaires relocate... no more than it would if 200 people with an income over 26K. I think you're confusing mean with median.

22 February 2013 at 10:23  
Blogger Roy said...

As someone who, like Brother Ivo, was born within a few years of the end of World War II, I can identify with his description of his childhood. By modern standards my family was certainly poor in the late 1940s and the early to mid 1950s. However we definitely did not regard ourselves as poor. We were rich in the things that really matter.

I am sure that genuine cases of child poverty do exist in this country but they are bound up with other problems. For instance, once someone becomes trapped in debt (not necessarily debts to a loan shark) it can be very difficult to get back on a sound financial footing. Where a parent or parents are addicted to alcohol or drugs child poverty might be a result. Living in a crime-ridden environment does not help either. Also there are cases of children who are having to act as carers because of the chronic ill health of a parent.

All these problems deserve attention. To his credit Ian Duncan Smith is trying to do something about them. He may not always get things right but at least he is trying to tackle the most important problems. The Labour Party did no such thing when it was in power. Frank Field was appointed to "think the unthinkable" in tackling the problems of poverty but was quickly sacked when he showed signs of taking his brief seriously.

Finally, although inequality in income and poverty are not the same thing it is probably good for social harmony that the extremes should not be too great. Therefore policies to stimulate the economy of the poorer regions of Britain, and poor areas within large cities, are desirable as long as the money is used effectively.

22 February 2013 at 10:25  
Blogger Brother Ivo said...

Brother Giles,

Brother Ivo did spot and attempt to clarify the need to add " per thousand" to the child mortality statistic, but the post had already gone up and correcting it is technically problematic.

He defers to you on mathematical definitions. Do further correct; the point is the average income to which this " poverty" definition is pegged will be affected by the illustrated shift in billionaire mumbers whilst the state of the child would remain constant. Hovering over or under a statistically fixed measure tell you nothing per se about the actual living standard.

22 February 2013 at 10:36  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Br Ivo

‘[B]ut let us preserve the values of the economic order that attracted them here in the first place.’

That is not radical enough.

Poverty begins, and is sustained b spiritual poverty: that poverty flows from the breasts of our Christian leaders.

When God used John Wesley (1703-91) four million out of five million people in this country lived in absolute poverty. Poverty was so bad that if each individual did not find enough food every day – starvation laid siege to his stomach.

Poverty was a penultimate symptom of drunkenness, fighting, immorality (in all starta of society): society was overwhelmed by single parents and fatherless children (Hogarth’s sketch of Gin Lane depicts the social disintegration dramatically); one-half of each year’s grain was distilled into gin; a quarter of all houses in London were licensed to sell gin; violence was so endemic that the police often failed to restore law and order – and hanging people who had been intoxicated for most of their lives and sober on the gallows made no difference.

The country was ripe for revolution.

John Wesley’s preaching changed the lives of one million men and women – just think about that – one fifth of our country turned away from drinking; ‘fucking’ (outside of marriage); fighting (instead becoming productive); men turning back to their wives and children; families saving money (to invest); children taught to read – a fifth of our country turned to the Lord our God and were blessed by stability, security, health and more than enough to eat and drink – and smile - in front of the nation’s glowing hearths.

Those revivals went onto to produce great men like William Wilberforce whose campaign to end slavery eventually launched the once mighty Royal Navy to patrol the oceans and terminate that nefarious trade.

Communist historians such as the late EP Thompson (1924-1993) wrote bitterly in his work The History of the Making of the English Working Class that the Wesleyan revivals averted any hope of turning this nation into a socialist society.

Poverty begins, in the breasts of this nation’s Christian leaders – it begins as spiritual poverty and flows into every area of life – from the greatest to the least.

If only there was some man, out there, who like Lord Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke – is spending one fourth of each day in prayer and fasting for this nation (only the one) – then there would be hope fellas.

Yeah, hope.

22 February 2013 at 10:45  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Brother Ivor,
I enjoyed your reminiscences as I was born in 47 to a herd working family and never realised I was lacking. Yes, 'Muffin the Mule' which today would be 'Mule in the Muffin' also 'Bill and Ben' and 'Andy Pandy' were all great favourites. Kids don't know how good they have it today, or is it good?

22 February 2013 at 11:00  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Br Ivo

When I say that spiritual poverty affects every area life – an example: Tracey Emin’s bed.

And this is how one commentator describes it:

‘Tracey shows us her own bed, in all its embarrassing glory. Empty booze bottles, fag butts, stained sheets, worn panties: the bloody aftermath of a nervous breakdown. By presenting her bed as art, Tracey Emin shares her most personal space, revealing she’s as insecure and imperfect as the rest of the world.’

Art? ‘Embarrassing glory’?

It is that piece of ‘art’,that for me sums up the state of our country’s spiritual poverty – and the poor proles are meant to appreciate the product of a sick mind and the commentator’s sick intellect.

22 February 2013 at 11:08  
Blogger Berserker said...

Doing the Nostalgia Lane walk...

During the Second World War infant mortality showed great improvement as did the health of the ordinary citizen unless a bomb fell on you. Bread was nutritious, there was a small amount of meat consumed which could always be supplemented by rabbit and other game Stalwarts like corned beef fritters, bread pudding, spam fritters and a glorious dish called Lord Wooton's Pie (Veg and cheese) mock this and that...

Does anyone watch those old factory gate films that have been on TV recently? It struck me that everyone looked so happy (and they had probably come off a hard day's work) and healthy and fit as well.

Put simply, we eat too much.

Child poverty? Do they go to school with holes in their socks and shoes? Are they forced to work on farms at an early age? It is not so long ago that working children were the only insurance adults had against starvation.

This constant chorus of helping
deprived families (excuse me but what about hard working single people?) I bet that most of these deprived families have a smoker in their midst.

A packet of things now costs about £7.40!

22 February 2013 at 11:40  
Blogger Berserker said...

Doing the Nostalgia Lane walk...

During the Second World War infant mortality showed great improvement as did the health of the ordinary citizen unless a bomb fell on you. Bread was nutritious, there was a small amount of meat consumed which could always be supplemented by rabbit and other game Stalwarts like corned beef fritters, bread pudding, spam fritters and a glorious dish called Lord Wooton's Pie (Veg and cheese) mock this and that...

Does anyone watch those old factory gate films that have been on TV recently? It struck me that everyone looked so happy (and they had probably come off a hard day's work) and healthy and fit as well.

Put simply, we eat too much.

Child poverty? Do they go to school with holes in their socks and shoes? Are they forced to work on farms at an early age? It is not so long ago that working children were the only insurance adults had against starvation.

This constant chorus of helping
deprived families (excuse me but what about hard working single people?) I bet that most of these deprived families have a smoker in their midst.

A packet of things now costs about £7.40!

22 February 2013 at 11:40  
Blogger Richard Bray said...

Good challenge, and thanks to D Singh comments too.

But Ed Balls has never been Chancellor...

22 February 2013 at 12:15  
Blogger Flossie said...

While it's pointless comparing child poverty in Britain to that in some areas of the world where children rifle through rubbish dumps in the hope of finding something of value to sell for food, we do still have ghettoes of poverty.

I do agree with a lot of the comments so far, and having been poor myself to the extent of having to go to bed when it got dark because I couldn't afford to feed the electricity meter to keep warm, I cannot put the blame entirely on those in that boat.

But I do feel that attitude has a lot to do with it. Setting aside the gross sense of entitlement which many seem to have, as in Brother Ivo's example, so many who would call themselves poor have a wealth of expensive electronic equipment in their social housing, plus car and other luxuries, but will still try to squeeze as much as possible from the state.

Then there is plain ignorance - how to manage on a small amount of money. Feeding children with pizza, burgers, sweets and biscuits instead of proper meals cooked from scratch which can be cheaper seems to be common practice in some quarters. I know somebody who does this regularly, buying takeaways several times a week, but who complains that she can't afford proper food for her family.

22 February 2013 at 12:20  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Some excellent comments there, so much appreciated. D.Singh's comment is very apt and sums up my feelings about much of current "culture" which is devoid of hope and aspiration. Extreme individualism and selfishness is leading to nihilism. Faith and the practical actions and changes it brings in individuals, families and society is needed as never before but the metropolitan establishment are puffed up in their arrogance and relativism. Just been reading Revelation and it speaks volumes to us about the present worldly "Empire". We desperately need godly leaders.

22 February 2013 at 12:40  
Blogger Flossie said...

David Hussell, I came back to add to my post the main thrust (which I forgot!) to find that you have done it for me.

Turning away from God, the breakdown of stable families and the culture of death which is so prevalent in today's society is really the cause.

We need to have godly leaders, and sadly we have not.

22 February 2013 at 12:55  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Br Ivo

Here is a brief description of the social effects of the Welsh revival of 1904-05.

During the spring of 1904 a young Welshman named Evan Roberts was repeatedly awakened at 1:00 a.m. He met with God until 5:00 a.m. The Welsh revival followed.

Miners were converted – which confused their pit ponies – as their owners ceased to swear out their orders.

Bible verses were pinned to the doors down in the coalmines. "At Swansea the Poor Law guardians...dealt with revival cases in which people...have taken their parents from the workhouse.” Imagine that – sons and daughters rescuing their poor aged parents from the workhouse and caring for them – rather than them being abandoned to the coldness of the bureaucrat.

The Times newspaper reported on January 10th: entire congregations were on their knees in fervent prayer and "for the first time there was not a single case of drunkenness at the Swansea Petty Sessions."

Imagine that! What would you do with unemployed police officers, magistrates, prison officers, probation officers, social workers, drug rehabilitation officers, psychiatrists, drug counsellors?

On January 11th The Times noted that David Lloyd-George, who later became the British Prime Minister, said the Welsh revival gave hope "that at the next election Wales would declare with no uncertain sound against the corruption in high places which handed over the destiny of the people to the horrible brewing interest..."

Pubs were empty.

Political meetings and even football matches were postponed...quarrels between trade-union workmen and non-unionists had been made up.

Coal miners crowed into prayer meetings that lasted till 3:00 a.m. and then washed, ate breakfast and returned to work. Many drunkards confessed their sins and received Christ. According to the London Times of February 2nd, 1905 due to the Welsh revival many men abandoned dens of iniquity. Employers noticed a great improvement in the work produced by their employees. A judge named Sir Marchant Williams said that his work was much lighter especially regarding drunkenness and related offenses.

Revival fires spread through Bangor University resulting in "only a third or fourth of the students attending some of the classes... Beginning with a spontaneous outburst of praise and prayer among the men students, the movement a united prayer meeting...some...broke down sobbing."

In my opinion, the effects of the Welsh revival could still be seen in the intelligence, ‘orchestral’ movement, and sweet poetry of the Welsh Rugby Union team of the 1970s – Christianity affects every area of life – personal and national.

22 February 2013 at 13:20  
Blogger Martin said...

Actually, aside from the cost of the radio and its maintenance, listening to the BBC is entirely free of charge, unlike the 50's.

22 February 2013 at 13:39  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...

" ... if a child lives in a household in which the income is less than 60% of the median income (currently £26,000 in the UK), that child becomes automatically and absolutely statistically defined as 'living in poverty'."

There's the problem - relative poverty presupposes envy, not hardship. If all my neighbours have heated swimming pools, I should too.

By the way, Brother Ivo you were most fortunate to have a television set so soon. We didn't manage to acquire one until the late 1950's when 'Rag, Tag and Bobtail' was on.

22 February 2013 at 13:43  
Blogger IanCad said...

I wonder how things would improve were it a requirement for all boys to be taught carpentry and for the girls to learn domestic science prior to taking their GCSE's.

22 February 2013 at 13:46  
Blogger John Henson said...

Like several who have posted comments above, I too was born towards the end of the war and brought up during the austere 1940s and 50s.

By today's measure I would probably have been classified as living in poverty, but it didn't feel like that, for several good reasons: I was brought in a family with a mother AND a father; my father was an abstemious man who managed his money carefully and could do a bit of DIY; my mother could cook, and we never went hungry, and she also took pride in turning her children out well scrubbed and wearing clean clothes.

It's not necessarily the money, its self-respect that matters. Add to that some practical skills, like cooking and washing and ironing; like being able to do some basic woodwork and decorating, all of which were taught to my parent's generation, and you can get by.

22 February 2013 at 14:29  
Blogger Jack Sprat said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

22 February 2013 at 14:36  
Blogger Jack Sprat said...

22 February 2013 at 14:36  
Blogger Brother Ivo said...

Brother Dodo

It was The Coronation that was responsible- a 10" Bush: but it does not pay to be early into technology as it only received one channel. We were denied the joys of ITV until some years after its launch.

The absence of telephony was another striking difference.

22 February 2013 at 14:44  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Bro Ivo,
The Coronation must have created a massive uptake on TV's. My parents too had theirs for the great event in 1953 and I remember all the neighbours coming in to watch.
I am really not sure about this poverty thing. Everything is relevant and I don't believe that any child need to be deprived of the essentials of life and wee and an iPad are not essentials. Junk food is definitely not an essential.
So it is down to the parents to provide for them even if they have to go without a few luxuries.

22 February 2013 at 16:00  
Blogger David Hussell said...

D. Singh, I was brought up in South Wales, although of English extraction. In the Grammar school I attended in the 60s the effect of the revival could still be felt. Half the children, living in the slightly more prosperous coastlands ,including me, came from "Church" families and the other half travelled down daily from the valleys, many of whose fathers were miners, and they were from "Chapel" families. It was a twin culture but linked by the shared Christian heritage. Most of the teachers were from working class families, and therefore chapel people and usually serious about their faith. The population had a strong culture based on faith, well paying industrial jobs, colliery choirs, trade union and Labour party membership, pride in being Welsh and of course rugby. But most of that has been swept aside. When I return now to visit my very elderly parents and other relatives I am sickened and saddened at the way the culture has been impoverished and debased. The chapels are often boarded up, the churches including my own are struggling to survive, the pride in having good industrial jobs has mainly gone as the industrial base has contracted greatly, and the people, are left only with the rugby and , for the Welsh speakers, national pride. When the Welsh lost their faith and the industries that brought many communities into existence they lost a great deal indeed. It is a much depleted nation, in my opinion.

22 February 2013 at 16:02  
Blogger Brother Ivo said...

Brother David,

Brother Ivo was wondering how long it might take until someone mentioned grammar schools.

These were the mechanism by which many from families of modest means began their ascent up the social scale. The glass ceiling for the non-U was not shattered by equality laws or affirmative action, but by competitive examination in which Jack could objectively prove he was as good as his master. Few appreciate that this was much approved by early socialists because contacts, accent, or family connection could play no part.

22 February 2013 at 17:40  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Article: "The Bishop might also reflect upon whether our society’s response to the poor can be fairly characterised as 'scandalous' when it is prepared to build a £400,000 house for a claimant who has never worked, given birth to 11 children, and is apparently able to maintain more than one car and a horse."

But on the positive side, at least she's doing her duty as far as the birth rate of the indigenuous people is concerned, thereby helping stop those pesky Muslims from breeding their way into control and dooming our Christian country. Etc, etc.

22 February 2013 at 17:45  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

" follows that no improvement in living standards per se can change the fact that the lower 40 centiles will always be defined as 'poor'."

Which means that, no matter what happens, the Poverty Industry, with its jobs, quangoes, conferences, reports, funding applications, large salaries for chief execs., and opportunities for public grandstanding will always be with us; a permanently self-sustaining job creation scheme for busy-bodies, without the risk of any form of democratic accountability.

Anyone still wonder why 'relative poverty' was adopted and embraced?

22 February 2013 at 17:49  
Blogger John Henson said...

Brother David; Brother Ivo:

Re grammar schools: Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, William Hague, Michael Howard were all educated in the state system.

Since Labour did away with grammar schools in the name of "fairness" we are now back to being governed by toffs.

Be careful less your wishes are fulfilled!

22 February 2013 at 19:00  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

D Singh

My son travelled back by train from an interview so he was in a suit.

He arrived at Swansea station and asked some girls also travelling on the train if there was any place open where he could get some food as he had to wait for the connection to Carmarthen.

He was told that there were, but if he left the station dressed like that he would be mugged before he had gone 100m.

How the times have changed


22 February 2013 at 19:05  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

Brother Ivo

It will take a lot more than a few grammar schools to make a difference to what is going on in society now.

Try instead 5000 Christian schools whoa re selective. i.e they can kick out those that do not want to learn or conform.

Then you may see a difference.

Why should a weak but hard working child be denied a decent education just because of they are not bright?

What we need are Christian morals taught and enforced in schools.


22 February 2013 at 19:10  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

John Henson,

This 'toff' business is an interesting one isn't it?

I was educated at a major public school, and thus would (as a general rule) count as a toff. However, the only reason my parents could afford to send me to such a school was because they (the son and daughter of a South Yorkshire miner and railway worker respectively) went to grammar schools (abolished while they were still at them during the 1960s) and thence to University. The only reason they sent me to such a school was because the type of education they had received was no longer available within the state sector.

I was raised by working class people and now get called a toff by people (like the Milibands) from far wealthier family backgrounds than my own parents.

The irony seems to escape them.

22 February 2013 at 19:13  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

Ref Grammar schools

We need to bring up kids who are willing to do this

Rather than more grammar schools.

Don't forget, I went to the last one in Wales.

They are no utopia.


22 February 2013 at 19:15  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

Darter Noster

My eldest 4 went to public schools costing £30k each per year.

My kids seemed to think that there were very few toffs but lots of angry sad kids who were sent/parked in boarding school so that mum or dad could start a new family with the new mum/dad without the embarrassing and awkward teenagers from the previous marriage still around and upsetting the new couplet!


22 February 2013 at 19:20  
Blogger Darter Noster said...


Public schools are no more of a utopia than grammar schools :oD

The point about the grammar school system, whilst it was far from utopic, is that it was the best means so far devised of giving state school kids a public school standard of education.

We hear lots about Oxford and Cambridge being biased towards public school students, but in the early 60s most of their intake came from grammar schools; since the aboIition of most grammar schools, the balance has swung the other way.

22 February 2013 at 19:25  
Blogger bluedog said...

Excellent comment, Darter Noster @ 17.49. Once a social problem is identified and a responsible government department is established with ministerial oversight, the problem becomes perpetual.

22 February 2013 at 19:42  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Thanks Bluedog :o)

The problem is that "campaigning", which began as an amateur and voluntary occupation during the 19th century, has become increasingly professionalised during the 20th century, so that it is now an industry in and of itself.

In order to sustain this industry, new problems must be found and old problems must be exaggerated.

22 February 2013 at 19:52  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

Darter Noster

"The point about the grammar school system, whilst it was far from utopic, is that it was the best means so far devised of giving state school kids a public school standard of education"

Grammar Schools are not public schools and never were.

The two are/were very different.

Not really a solution in my mind.


22 February 2013 at 20:23  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

Article: "The Bishop might also reflect upon whether our society’s response to the poor can be fairly characterised as 'scandalous' when it is prepared to build a £400,000 house for a claimant who has never worked, given birth to 11 children, and is apparently able to maintain more than one car and a horse."

She is working in my mind bring up 11 Children.

Imagine the cost if she gave up that job and made the state pay for this through fostering and or other care


22 February 2013 at 20:25  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

It seems that single mums are always the target.

Why pay money to single men who can easily work.

I would not pay any money to single men without dependants and certainly nothing to men under 30.

There are a 101 jobs that need doing that they can do.

Give them to me and I will find them work and more to the point, make them do it.

I will need to be a tad harsh so some of our nanny laws would need to be suspended.

A week or so with me and I bet you would be surprised at how many would have found alternative work!


22 February 2013 at 20:32  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

According to the Telegraph:

"But Ms Frost said she did everything possible not to be a burden on the State and said she did not deserve the negative attention she had received since details of her 'eco mansion' emerged."

Apart from crossing her legs, apparently.

22 February 2013 at 20:51  
Blogger Brother Ivo said...

Brother Phil,

My reference to the notorious mother of 11 is not to make a generic comment about single mums but rather to flag up that a Society whose rules permit that response cannot reasonably be denounced as hard hearted.

22 February 2013 at 20:53  
Blogger Flossie said...

Having just watched Question Time from St Paul's Cathedral, I have come to the conclusion that I live in a different universe to some of these people. Diane Abbot and Giles Fraser, who are clearly insane, do not think there is anything wrong with this woman being given a six-bedroomed house as she is entitled to it, there will be two-and-a-half people to each room (clear evidence of overcrowding), and she was not being 'given' it, she would be paying rent. They also mentioned that some of her children were adults and earning, thus paying tax. Am I missing something here? These people (Fraser and Abbot, I mean) seem to think it is fair and reasonable that this should be allowed to happen and that the rest of us should pick up the tab. At least Michael Heseltine brought up the point that people in work should not be subsidising those not in work to have a better lifestyle than they do. Grrr.

22 February 2013 at 20:57  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Ivo: "My reference to the notorious mother of 11 is not to make a generic comment about single mums but rather to flag up that a Society whose rules permit that response cannot reasonably be denounced as hard hearted."

Facetiousness aside, the housing response is really to do with her children who didn't ask to be born into a family of 11 children with little in the way of financial self-support.

22 February 2013 at 21:03  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


I can see that you are angry at this single mum

But think about it.

These kids exist. What is the alternative? Do you force her to be sterilised? Nobody seems to be saying she is a bad mother.

What about my point about single men.

Most single mums are not mugging, selling drugs or robbing cars to supplement their dole.

The single mums are not the problem.

Young men who refuse to act and behave like men are the problem

The real issue is their lack of honour.

Nothing will change until we tackle this fact head on.

Why does nobody talk about this?

Because the liberals do not want men to be men.

If men started being men then this would change society. Most men do not know how to be men because schools, churches and their own fathers did not teach them.

A woman on her own cannot teach a boy to be a man.

Too many boys are not brought up to be men.

Here lies the crux of the problem for the whole of our society.

You really think that societies ills will be solved if we make life harder for woman trying her best to bring up 11 kids on her own?

She's not the problem, just one symptom of the real problem that no one is talking about or cares about.


22 February 2013 at 21:29  
Blogger Nancy said...


If anyone is interested, here's a new reading list for Pro-Western Christianity:

There's an interesting discussion in the comments thread one the above resource.


23 February 2013 at 00:50  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

So where are all the fathers of these 11 children? I bet she gets cash payments off them.

I wonder what the rent of the new 6 bed eco home will be? And how does she intend to pay it?

It's funny these days men are becoming feminised or redundant as women are becoming and encouraged to be more masculine. None of my friends actually cook! To them cooking means opening a ready meal or heating something up.

When I compare their family lives now to our parents' who were war time generation they are truly spoiled. With so many wonderful household time and labour saving gadgets women are no longer tied to the kitchen and the home. Therefore, they have time to work and look after a husband and family more so than in the past where they were too busy washing, cleaning, cooking, baking, shopping, gardening to grow veg, sewing clothes, knitting jumpers, etc....
You would think divorce rates would have dropped.

Because there is precious little industry in this country, and increasing amounts of businesses that are middle men skimming off others by way of kickbacks, fees and the like, there is not enough actual productive work that creates GDP and in turn more industries and jobs.

I live not a million miles away from Phil Roberts and in a Labour controlled area that has been Labour for a very long time. Success here is defined as a position in management at the council or in the civil service. Industry here is and always has been sparse except for a little blip when Maggie was in power when there was a surge of new small businesses that have since closed down. I wouldn't dare open a shop in town as I know I would go bust within a year or two. There are many little shops opening that sadly after a short while close down. The industry is not here and those who do find something industrious to set up and manage to get themselves a grant for business expansion use it inappropriately to enhance their own and their families lives. I think this area is unusual for it's production of people into the performing arts and also politicians, but it has been steeped in left wing ideology for far too long.

23 February 2013 at 03:16  
Blogger Lord Lavendon said...

"Too many boys are not brought up to be men."

I agree with Phil Roberts; society should be about education, work and civic/social responsibility. The government can help with education and work policies. I think though that education and civic responsibility are also the domain of the traditional family and institutions such as the Church/religion.

23 February 2013 at 08:49  
Blogger Flossie said...

Phil - nobody wants to throw this family out on the streets. But it is the system which encourages this irresponsibility that is wrong. She has obviously had all these children knowing someone else would pick up the tab.

What an example to set to those 11 children. What is the betting they will follow down the same path of welfare dependency? They have no other example, after all.

23 February 2013 at 08:49  
Blogger Roy said...

Phil Roberts made some valid points but missed the main thrust of Brother Ivo's article.

Of course society has a duty to the family under discussion. Nobody is suggesting that they should be made homeless. They already have a home, paid for by the taxpayer. It might be unsatisfactory is some ways, but so what? Lots of people are not entirely satisfied with their accommodation. They have to decide whether or not to put up with it or find somewhere better and pay for it themselves. Why should that woman be different?

When I was a kid it was common for families to live in over crowed accommodation, without central heating, washing machines, fridges, or television. Many houses still had outside toilets. In some cases instead of toilet paper there would be old newspapers stuck on a nail.

Compared with that the "unsatisfactory" accommodation enjoyed by the family in question is probably like a palace.

Of course, Phil Roberts is right to say men should take responsibility for their children. From a moral point of view the man's responsibility is just as great as the woman's. However women know that if they choose an irresponsible man they are the ones who will be left holding the baby. That is a personal tragedy, especially if the woman was 100% convinced that he was the right man for her.

23 February 2013 at 10:34  
Blogger Matt A said...

I just love the Brother Ivo quote: "he enjoyed Muffin the Mule which he watched rather than ate". Excellent stuff!

23 February 2013 at 12:04  
Blogger David Hussell said...

If we journeying along Memory Lane, I shall join the party, so : - My preference is for "Andy Pandy", followed by The Woodentops. We were the third family in the village to acquire our enormous, clunky cabinet set, with its tiny screen, so I was relatively lucky. That was in 1956. Moreover living half way up a Welsh mountain, with no signal available at the house itself, the signal had to be relayed from a commercial aerial erected on the top of the mountain and then down through a cable, fed individually into each house that could afford to pay the annual "cable fee". Kids from less well off houses had to be nice to their friends to be allowed to watch with their friends. Beat that !

23 February 2013 at 13:44  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...

Well, I lived in a shoe-box!

23 February 2013 at 15:43  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Dear The Way of Dodo,

I admit it, I'm well and truly beaten !

Presumably there was sufficient room for your growing beak ?

23 February 2013 at 16:09  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...

David, no, it poked out of the box. It was torture in the cold winters.

23 February 2013 at 17:44  
Blogger David Hussell said...


Then you have set the all time, totally unbeatable, Olympic record for child / Dodo chick / all species suffering index. Congratulations ! One can only hope that His Grace is arranging for a suitably elevated winners podium to be constructed. I eagerly await news of the award ceremony, in THE Cathedral perhaps ? If so, please don't forget to send me a double ticket. Canterbury is very pleasant in most seasons, we find. Thank you very much.

23 February 2013 at 18:09  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Phil Roberts/Lord Lavendon

I agree. Without wanting to make myself into a Jerry Kyle, as he of the daytime show would note, people who make love, without "protection" and outside of marriage, still need to take the consequences of their actions. I appreciate that there are various examples which this is not possible, but as general rule I firmly believe that a baby needs a loving father and mother.

In response to the issues raised by Phil Roberts, may I suggest a return to "national service"?

23 February 2013 at 20:30  
Blogger bluedog said...

Phil Roberts @ 21.29 said, 'Young men who refuse to act and behave like men are the problem.'

Exactly right.

A generation of young narcissists has grown up who are afraid of commitment and responsibility. Very unfair on young women for whom the biological clock ticks at a different speed.

23 February 2013 at 20:53  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...

David - no public accolade please! I an an 'umble and shy old Dodo and want no earthly honours. Besides, it would have to be the Cistine Chapel and that is booked for a while. I mean, Canterbury is under 'foreign' occupation at present.

23 February 2013 at 23:24  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Ah Dodo,

Perhaps you might become a future ABC?

Incidentally, just out of nosy interest (sticking my Jewish beak into matters that don't concern me and all), what would happen if the Anglican Church was reincorporated into the Roman Catholic Church? Would you still have the 44 old Cathedrals in addition to how many Cathedrals the Catholic Church has already? How would you pay the running costs? Would the Vicars have to divorce their wives?

And what you you think of Cardinal O B - the vote Britain has in the next Pope- saying that Catholic Priests should be able to marry?

Sorry lots of questions, but I have an inquiring mind, so I am not trying to "troll" you.

23 February 2013 at 23:42  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...


The Roman Catholic Church in England would solve all these temporal issues in time. Is there really 44 Cathedrals in the possession of the Anglican Church? Clearly there would be a need for some rationalisation.

Married Priests are not forbidden by any doctrine of the Church. It is a discipline of Canon Law and has already been set aside to accommodate married vicars who have 'defected' from Canterbury.

There are good reasons why Priests should not marry and, on balance, I am against it - just. Maybe for older men who do not have the burden of raising children or providing for a family.

24 February 2013 at 02:04  
Blogger david kavanagh said...


Last post from me for a while.

I am sure I read that there are 44 Bishops, so I guessed each would have a cathedral, I am sure that Inspector would lobby for Gloucester to remain off the " rationalisation" list.

With the Priest celibacy, I can appreciate that. Although within Judaism the Rabbi is usually expected to be married etc, the wife of the Rabbi even has a special role and title, Rebbetzin.

24 February 2013 at 02:33  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Apologies for suggesting those earthly honours, as you are more than right to prefer the eternal ones. My sympathy for your impoverished and cramped chickhood (childhood?) experiences temporarily unbalanced my judgement. I will not raise such matter again, I promise.
However you are right to suggest that the C. of E. has too many buildings, both churches and catherdrals, although their number is slowly decreasing.
Having said that I must be off, as with our priest away, it falls to this "umble Christian, plus two others in the team, to lead the main service of the word today.

24 February 2013 at 08:34  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...


I trust the service went well and proved profitable for the souls of all.

24 February 2013 at 16:35  
Blogger non mouse said...

Mr. Hussell --- interesting because I've heard before that the C. of E. has too many buildings, both churches and catherdrals, although their number is slowly decreasing. That, I've been told, is why we're so busy turning them into 'money 'changers,' et al

Funny that (oo-er funny). We have millions more people in Britain than ever before: but we have too many churches? Perhaps if the Church were doing its job a little better --?

After all, why is it that, at the same time, we also have infinitely more mosques than we ever had. Can't get away from them, in some places...

24 February 2013 at 17:11  
Blogger David Hussell said...


It did, thank you. Lent is a good time to invite reflections on personal "spring cleaning" which my colleague did well whilst I stitched it all together as best as I can. A short homily on The Temple followed, which was as educational as it was spiritual. Encouragingly we were able to get some youngsters involved too, both playing the organ and operating our simple, basic projector system. Finally, standing at the altar holding the plate, ready to accept the collection, I felt somethings stir telling me that, as across all the churches of our land both laity attendance and full time vocations are dwindling, "self help", spirit guided worship will perhaps, become more usual. Opportunities for more ecumenism perhaps ? We will survive and flourish again !

24 February 2013 at 17:20  

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