Lone Parents are the Role Models we NeedPosted: 17/08/11 01:00
The events of the last week shocked us all. We have seen violence on our streets beyond anything that we could have imagined just a few weeks ago. Now that the rioting and looting has subsided and those involved are appearing in court, everyone’s attention has rightly turned to the causes and, with many of the perpetrators being so young, attention has turned to the parents.As has happened in past debates on seemingly failed parenting, especially in deprived areas, lone parents have been brought into the centre of the discussion. And again, as has happened in the past, lone parents have been seen by some as representing our slide into a country more like A Clockwork Orange than the England we’re used to.
This characterisation of lone parents as unable or unwilling to stop their children turning into the type of person we all saw steal from Ashraf Haziq, the injured Malaysian student, repeatedly attack police officers and destroy their own community does not sit well with my personal experience.
I work in the area with the highest proportion of lone parents in the country, North Liverpool, where in some areas more than 1 in 6 of households with children are run by a lone parent. In my experience lone parents are some the most responsible people we have in our communities. In my experience they are often the type of people who hold together a community, not destroy it.
Across the country, the programme I work for, Your Horizons, brings together four charities – Citizens Advice, Family Action, Gingerbread and One Parent Families Scotland – working together to offer a range of free support on money matters, grants for education and training costs and advice on preparing for work. The lone parents we work with are very active in this process and so my job is really enabling them to do what they already want to and fulfill their potential. It’s because of their desire to better their own lives that since 2005 our project has been sponsored by Barclaycard and helped over 460,000 lone parents and their children.
At the moment we’re allocating educational grants to parents struggling to complete their studies and the stories of those previously helped are representative of the types of positive story we hear every day. We’ve had people get grants to become beauticians, accountants and even a funeral director. One of the best stories came from a mum called Samantha, her children were old enough that she wanted to start working again but she still needed to be available if they needed her. Samantha’s idea was to become a black cab driver. We helped her do The Knowledge course and now she’s able to support her children and work the most convenient hours. Some of these might sound funny but they all show single mums and dads coming up with innovative solutions to the problems they face.
What worries me is not the coverage of those lone parents whose children ran wild last week – the press has to cover things that matter to the nation – but that a small minority of lone parents were able to tarnish the reputation of the majority. Instead, I want to take a moment to recognise the fantastic job lone parents do. The example they set is an inspiration to me everyday and should be an inspiration to society too.
If anything we need more of the qualities I see in lone parents: responsibility, care, respect and a work ethic second to none.