Baby News

The Real Life of Families?

Monday 3rd of June 2013  |  Category: Baby News  |  Written by: Leoarna Mathias

I read this heart-breaking blog post just over a week ago. In it, a mother describes the realities of living in B&B accommodation when you are facing homelessness. She, her husband and three young children have one room, and shared cooking and bathroom facilities. They are just like you and me; hardworking, decent ordinary folk, as the saying goes. They are, by their council's definition, 'unintentionally homeless', which is bureaucrat-speak for it not being their fault. Circumstances have stacked up against them, and this is the net result. Karen and her husband are showing considerable fortitude in the face of this particularly unpleasant brand of adversity. And they are not alone. Another blogger has also been in this kind of accommodation since Christmas Eve - yes, I did say Christmas Eve. Legally, families are supposed to be housed in this way for no longer than six weeks. As I write, on June 1st, this family has been there for more than six months.

a family in bed

Very often, blogging is about sharing the beauty inherent in parenting, and my hat is off to Karen and Mummyglitzer for sharing a very different picture via their writing. I am also encouraged by the response other bloggers make in situations like this. They empathise, sympathise, vocalise their support, campaign on their own blogs (Here's Mummy Barrow having a Ranty Friday about the current provision for homeless people here in the UK. ) Also earlier this week Oxfam and Church Poverty Organisation joined together to publish a report into Breadline Britain. It makes pretty stark reading. Beyond the issues of housing, it unravels the dramatic rise in families accessing food banks and needing other kinds of support just to get by. It lays blame for this unacceptable situation squarely at the feet of government. Benefit payments are delayed or stopped altogether for the wrong reasons, and then the cogs turn to slowly to prevent families falling into real poverty before they are reinstated. As a nation, we are in danger of allowing poverty to embed itself permanently for a proportion of the population. As this piece in the Guardian observes, the benefits system, local authorities and others are playing a depressing game of 'pass the buck' but in so doing, they are allowing parents and their children to slip through the net. And we shouldn't allow ourselves to fall into the trap of judging the families who end up in this situation. The Child Poverty Action Group makes it clear its home page that while people end up in poverty for a complex combination of reasons,
"...explanations which put poverty down to drug and alcohol dependency, family breakdown, poor parenting, or a culture of worklessness are not supported by the facts."

In the end, it is easy, as an individual, to feel pretty impotent in the face of such glaring inequality in our society. We none of us hold the solution in our singular hand. I chose to write about these stories this week as my way of doing something for these families, these children. I know Karen loves her kids just the same as I do. She wants the best for them, and thinks about their future as much as I do for my own two little ones.

As the Nigerian proverb goes; 'it takes a village to raise a child'. We all carry a level of responsibility for how the next generation gets to adulthood. Will they grow up feeling the benevolence of the society they live in, or with a sense that it is uncaring and blind to the plight of many of its members? I may not be able to drop Karen a cheque. I may not have a roof to offer her. But all of us reading this can share her plight, representative as it is of the struggles of so many right now in the UK. And we can appreciate our own relative good fortune, be a little more considered as we listen to the news, and maybe even drop a few food basics off at our local food bank scheme. After all, a plate of warm beans on toast for children just like your own isn't too much to ask now.

This is the fourteenth blog I have written for the Mum Network websites. We are a small band, but we are passionate about getting good quality, relevant and topical information out to our readers, in order that they can make considered choices in their day to day lives as parents. From breastfeeding to maternity rights, from childcare to IVF, and from an examination of Mothers Day to research about father-baby relationships, I've done it all. I hope you'll keep popping in every week to see what has caught my eye!

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