Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Home education, single parenthood and availability for work.

I am a single parent. I home educate my children. I am therefore not available to go out to work.

The government is trying to assert that I am, because it has put funding into extended schooling and childcare places in Children's Centres.

But Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 states:

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable -to his age, ability and aptitude, and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

and I don't know of a school that will provide my children with an education that is either full-time, efficient or suitable to their ages, aptitudes or abilities. The education I provide them with complies perfectly with Section 7. If I was to put my children in school I would be in breach of Section 7.

The DWP consultation "In Work, Better Off" makes the following completely false assumptions:

  1. The only kind of work that has any value, or is even worthy of the word 'work' is the paid variety. This is not true: having some people stay at home and caring for their family is equally, if not more valuable and necessary to the health and wellbeing of our nation.

  2. Children are just as happy with any old adult as with their parent. And even that they thrive better away from their parents. Absolute tosh. Children gain essential emotional nourishment and security from being with 'good enough' parents which they don't gain from spending time with other people.

  3. Working for 16 hours a week and claiming WFTC makes single parents better off. This is not true in many cases. Actually, the financial difference is usually negligible and quickly spent on facilitating the work - e.g., paying for travel, or clothing, or compensatory treats.

  4. Economies can and should be made to constantly grow and never allowed to decline. I disagree: this is an unrealistic and potentially disastrous stance. Even if we do ever achieve the brutally unrealistic goal of full employment there will come a time when people have simply bought enough stuff and no more superfluous jobs or goods can be created or sold. What happens then?

  5. Parents can and should be held responsible for their children's behaviour even though they are obliged to go out to work all day and put their children in school all day. Not true: you can't have it both ways. Either hold parents responsible and enable them to actually raise, monitor and influence their offspring or stop trying to hold parents responsible - at which point our society will be so chaotic and insane that people won't want to live in it.

  6. Neglecting to consult properly on this is OK and nobody will notice or mind. It's not ok. My DWP single parent advisor last week denied the existence of this consultation and told me the change had been decided and was happening, come what may. I know of other single parents who have been told the same thing. DWP staff should be giving all single parents full information about this consultation, including response forms. As far as I know, there are no actual response forms or even clear methods for responding. Complaints are (thankfully) being made to BRE about this, as far as I know.

  7. Forcing this and other similar changes through will generate predictable and desirable results for governments and economies. I strongly disagree. This is an incursion too far.


Blogger Baz said...

Theres a line in a song by the Manic Street Preachers that goes "If you tolerate this, then your children will be next" - and thats what this smacks of to me.

There is also the old addage of "divide and conquer" as well.

Anyone not concerned at this needs to consider that should this consultation go through, and be passed into law, Section 7 of the Education Act would be neatly bypassed, because the right to home educate would effectively be taken away from a section of society because of their requirement to be in employed status, which basically means that the principal of home AND family, that so many Home-Edders cherish will have to be compromised at some point.

Following that, once a legal precedent has been set, its far far easier to use it as an argument to remove the right of anyone to home educate - because, and I quote from a minister at some point in the future.... "Everyone needs to be in work in order to contribute to society, and we have schools that are meeting what we consider to be the standards set by Section 7 and day care facilities for younger children so there is no need for home education"

People need to think about this one long and clear. I can see it having much larger repercussions.

11:22 am, October 09, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Hmm, I didn't want to say it Baz, but yes we do seem to be sleep-walking our way into that situation, don't we?

They tried it with the Travellers first, but we rumbled them on that one I gather.

The thing is, do we have any democracy left? Is there any point in anybody trying to oppose anything? I'm feeling a bit defeatist ATM, if you hadn't noticed. ;-)

11:27 am, October 09, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

Nothing to add but just want to show solidarity because it stinks. Do you think you could work out the financial implications of both situations for the thinkg I put up on the wiki? WOuld love to be able to have figures to hit the gov with.

Manic's line sums it up perfectly Baz.

11:38 am, October 09, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes Tech. I'll put some time aside to do that this week. Good to be given something useful and productive to do on this :-)

11:43 am, October 09, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

Fantastic :-)

This is something that every mother in the land should be railing against, because anyone of us could be affected by this at any time. It's oh so easy to sit in an ivory tower as a married/partnered mother and sneer at the "dolite single mothers" but there are no guarantees in this life, and situations can change in the blink of an eye. Plus who's to say they will stop at the single mothers? How long before child benefit is dependent upon both parents being in paid work? They want our children, that's all there is to it, IMO.

12:19 pm, October 09, 2007  
Blogger dawniy said...

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We will need a permission email from a parent for anyone who is under the age of 14. This Blogring will not be advertised outside of our blogging community.
Only Lana and dawniy can add blogs to this ring and will be checking our younger people are safe.
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Thank you :)

2:38 pm, October 09, 2007  
Blogger Elaine said...

What an opportune time to post this Gill I am going to word my response very carefully after reading your post twice , why?
well a brief rundown of the past 24hrs
1a.m. test JR's blood mm need to check again in an hour
2.15 a.m. check again give correctional insulin.
6a.m. check again ok I get up clean
8a.m. JR up bloods, insulin breakfast
10a.m. set of for field trip connected with recent subject JR been studying
1p.m. lunch, bloods, insulin
5p.m. home bloods take dogs and JR to beach so JR can socialise
7 p.m. cook tea, bloods insulin and quick browse during which I totally misread a post and leave totally inappropriate comment
10p.m. shower for JR supper, bloods insulin
11p.m. JR sleeping I clean downstairs have to do thorough vacuuming at night every few days as I can only whizz round daytime as the 'noise' sends JR loopy
1a.m. coffee browsing re-read blog i read earlier oops leave apology.
2 a.m.I will do a blood check act on it go to bed .
Social security call me in every 8weeks for BTW session I am not exempt because I am JR's sole carer they are not willing to find me home-work I can do at night whilst staying up to check bloods they want me to go out to work and they insist I will continue to be called until ...
And all to save paying me £4.11p income support.
And as for them saying it is now law I can add that they also insisted when I asked that there will be no exemption for single parents of disabled children .
So thankfully I don't make mistakes with JR's care she will always take priority but can you imagine any employer in their right mind taking me on

1:53 am, October 10, 2007  
Blogger Lucy said...

Horrifying beyond belief... it's like the present government want complete control over families, targeting wherever they think they can... ugh. So many kids are now really being raised by uncaring institutions - where is that going to lead us? I think were already seeing some of the
effect in the gangs of teens who adults are afraid of - they've had to band togather very young as that's where they found their security. Adults are the bad guys...

9:30 am, October 10, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Also, it occurs to me that this is the way the compulsory school system was introduced. First, people have a choice about making their own arrangements. Then businesses and charities set up optional facilities. Then government got involved and set up 'optional' facilities, into which much money was invested. Then it became compulsory to use the facilities, whether families wanted to or not. In some states of America, according to Gatto, children were separated from their parents at gunpoint by soldiers to ensure their school attendance. All for their own good, of course.

State -v- family: Strong families make for weak governments. Governments have to constantly undermine the family structure to subdue people, if they want to be strong. But it's been proven time and again that you need strong family structures in which to grow healthy people. And I don't mean nuclear families.

9:41 am, October 10, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is really worrying and I never cease to wonder at the scary side doors our government seem to find to erode the power of establishment-threatening movements!
I was instantly worried about friends of mine who home educate (incidentally single parent, home educating fathers in this case) and the immediate outcomes for their children I know personally, who I couldn't conceive of surviving intact in school. It must be pretty terrifying to be immediately in this position.

My DH and I (as with all of us, partnered or not) have had to think about what we would be able to do if I was no longer available to home educate our children (a discussion I found essential this close to giving birth after a previous birth experience).
It is just NOT an option to send children to school in some circumstances (bad for some, a disaster for others ... as Elaine illustrates.)
We have to act to keep cutting off these attempts to erode our legal rights.

10:35 pm, October 10, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes, it affects relatively few of us directly but could potentially affect many more at some stage. Your solidarity is heart-warming and appreciated! Hopefully many of us will speak up to say what we think about this, but I'm afraid the change will be bulldozed through regardless.

It would be fabulous if the government supported home education as a legal option for everyone, regardless of status, but I guess that would be kind of like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas, wouldn't it? Not very likely to happen.

One of the things I find amazing is the fact that the Education Act is being brazenly breached by so many schools and local authorities - and parents, unwittingly, in respect of section 7 - and yet nobody bats an eyelid about this. Educational provision can be absolutely dire, but if it takes place in a state-sanctioned institution, that's just fine.

And if it fails so noticeably that this has to be admitted then: "Oh dear. Lessons will be learned. More funding will be made available."

Ah well, I could rant all night and I don't think it'll change anything! I think I'll put my energy into trying to think up more workable solutions for the problem instead.

12:47 am, October 12, 2007  
Blogger michael said...

I think being a single parent is just an excuse not to work.Working sets a good example to children especially volintary work, which my children do.

4:39 pm, October 15, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Bless :-)

5:03 pm, October 15, 2007  
Blogger Jay said...

Hi , i too have the same BTW interview every 6 weeks! It is ridiculous ...i say clearly that i intend to continue home -edding my child & ask waht can they do to help me be ready to return to work in 2 years time ...answer nothing,you have to wait untill you are looking for work !
I am so annoyed at this btw farce , despite the fact that i've had major surgery in the last 5 months, am suffering from an incurable illness & home-educating the powers that be still want me to put my child into school & get out to work.I feel penalised because i happen to be a lone parent & not through choice.Do they treat parents in a relationship/married/civil patnership like this ...no because one partner is working .
I would like the money that i save the government paid to me ..i'm doing a better job than the school system & have a happy,work focused teenager to prove it !

5:23 pm, October 15, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

We're working on putting some figures together to show how much money we are saving government by home educating, even when we are on IS Jay - maybe that will help.

So sorry to hear you're having such a hard time with them. We've just watched Lord of the Rings here again, and the orcs in Mordor reminded me of the DWP ;-) Well, there's about the same amount of sympathy and compassion, isn't there? *Rolls eyes*

5:27 pm, October 15, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

Erm, she's my local MP and yes, I did go to her surgery on Friday (well, it is held less than a minute's walk away).

I do need to write it up. It won't be particularly cheerful though (I left with gritted teeth).

8:44 pm, October 16, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Goodness me Nikki, well done you!

9:24 pm, October 16, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

Well, it's at the end of the road - and Fiona popped up chirpily and said, here's the list of her surgeries AND, look, there's one at the end of your road ;0)

10:15 pm, October 16, 2007  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I'm not sure how best to word this to not cause any offence to you or any other single-parent. HE is a choice/right we have, the same as sending the children to private or state schooling. It doesn't say that the government should fund our HE choice any more than it should fund private education. They aren't taking away the right to HE, they just won't fund it.

I couldn't complain about this one as they are at least willing to fund (yes--I know it's not a huge sum every month) the 1st seven years of a childs life. I know children are still vulnerable after that age, but I feel very strongly of a child's right to be taken care of by their parents when they are that young. If the government paid everyone to stay home and HE, there would be a slight problem. I'm sure my DH and many other partners who financially and whole-heartily support our decisions to HE would rather stay home full-time and participate in the HE process.

Like Sally--we have also thought about what would happen with our plans to HE if anything happened to either of us. We've taken out insurance policies to cover that eventuality--though it's more money out-of-pocket for us each month we think it's worth it for us to fund our own choices of how we want our family life to be like, as we wouldn't let the government make that choice. The more we rely on the government to fund what we want, the more power they have to call the shots.

11:01 pm, October 16, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Elizabeth, the cost to the taxpayer of putting my children into school right now, while I went out to work would be nearly £14,000 per year *more* than the the amount I'm presently receiving in benefits.

That's excluding the childcare costs I'd be eligible to claim for our baby.

This is not about money, because if it was, govt would have to wear a dunce hat for getting its sums very wrong ;-)

Just to clarify: by home educating on single parent breadline benefits I'm saving the taxpayer at least £14,000 every year. Do tell your DH :-)

8:11 am, October 17, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

I not currently a single parent, however, who's to say that I might not be one in the future. I have 4 children and as such putting them through the school system, plus the attendant childcare costs would be huge, probably more than I would claim.

Childcare costs would be in the region of £15,080. It is likely that CTC would pay for 80% of this, so: £12,064 and out of my income I would be left to pay the remaining £3016, so £58 a week which would be *interesting* on a low income, even with 'top-ups'.

I would likely qualify for WTC, so this would also cost the taxpayer.

Two of my children have SEN so there is an additional cost to the school system - my eldest has a Statement of SEN.

I think that this campaign has more to do with massaging figures. The general public only see that people are WORKING, but don't see all the financial support that goes on behind that - i.e. the CTC, WTC, etc.

Also, as part of this initiative there will be further support etc. (mentors, training, etc.) all this employs more people (thus costs to run) and of course the implementation of it also costs more money.

Hmmmmm, to me it looks like tax payers (and my husband and I are tax payers) are being asked to foot a exercise in PR.

10:44 am, October 17, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

First paragraph, meant to read, "Probably more than I would claim in Income Support."

10:45 am, October 17, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Nikki, you're quite right: it would cost a fortune. Home education is definitely a cheap option for governments.

But schooling was never about short term economical factors, IMO. There are many other issues coming into play, but the main one I think is the necessary undermining of the family structure that governments must constantly do in order to maintain the status quo.

For example, imagine a strong, united, extended family whose members had no daily outside commitments. They would manage very well without benefits or jobs between them, and spend and be taxed very little - if anything at all. It would be extremely difficult for govt to monitor their behaviour and the children could grow up with any kind of political beliefs - and the strength and confidence to enact them.

The deliberate breaking of social bonds (free, organic support networks between families and neighbours) in order to build social bridges (official, paid 'support' like social workers, schools, Surestart centres etc) has been government policy for a long time. You can read a government-commissioned report about this here [opens pdf], in which it's clearly stated that the existence of social bonds prevents the necessary uptake of social bridges.

I think there are other motives behind this, but the above is definitely a key one.

1:12 pm, October 17, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any moral ground to force 20 million British tax payers to fund a parent's home education?

I sincerily would like to know, I'm not trying to insult anyone, since I'm on benefits as well at the moment.

8:05 am, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

I dunno Leo. It's a question I'm struggling with too, TBH.

The only one I can come up with is the fact that the schools don't allow us to comply with section 7: in that the education offered there is neither full-time, efficient or suitable and that by preventing us from HEing (by removing benefits) they'd be forcing us to break that law, in effect.

But of course it's not going to wash because the majority of people do use the schools.

I can't really come up with anything else: it's the natural next stage in the relentless march of the school system, isn't it? So much has already taken place, unchecked, that it's a bit late for any of us to be saying: "Well actually I'd like for my child to have choices."

Maybe there's hope in the children's rights movement?

Really though I'm not hopeful and I'm preparing our setup here in time for Income Support to be withdrawn. By that I mean I'm working out ways to earn money whilst keeping the children at home and also planning a move off the power grid and our mortgage to reduce our ongoing costs so there's less to earn. I'm hoping to get that in place in time. It's probably a wise move anyway.

Looking on the bright side, I'm told (by friends and other HErs, not DWP!) that child tax credit will continue for us, as will housing and council tax benefit, so probably the way to go for HEing single parents will be to lose Income Support but refuse to sign as being available for work and keep taking the remaining benefits. In this way there's only the £54.75 weekly adult component of income support left to earn = about 10 hours' work at national minimum wage.

We're being given a lot of notice, so hopefully everyone will have enough time to put that in place, maybe to arrange work from home or jobs to which children can be taken etc.

Some people might be able to manage without the £54.75 a week? Or some of it? Even though it will mean going without certain things they've been used to.

The key thing is, we don't have to move into their JSA programme. There are other ways around the problem.

8:18 am, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

My dream is to set up a home-ed, off-grid village - wouldn't that be cool? ;-) I suspect there'd be far too much red tape though, but it's in the back of my mind all the time.

8:23 am, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Thinking more on the children's choice thing:

If a double-parented child rejects school, one parent can HE while the other one works. If a single-parented child rejects school, then under the new rules its parent will still have to work so the child will have no choice. That child will therefore be discriminated against, on educational grounds, purely because of its single-parent family status. I think this kind of discrimination is illegal under either the EU human rights law or the UNHR declaration, or both.

Is that moral ground? It might be legal ground.

8:54 am, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Elaine said...

A short reply to Leo while I think more . In general terms the moral ground would be why should the taxpayer fund childminders to do the parents job? why do they want to? is it to regulate lifestyle? financially they have not produced figures to show any saving to the taxpayer is this (as I believe) because there will be none ?
Have they done any research to show that children co-existing without family input 14hrs per day 48 weeks per year do not run the risk of developing a gang culture that will impact negatively on society?
As I said I need to think

4:24 pm, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Elaine's just phoned to say that of course she meant 10 hours, not 14!

6:03 pm, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Elaine said...

At age 10, teachers' perceptions indicated that early maternal employment was associated with higher levels of behaviour problems.
Right I am not sure where I am going with this but it is a realm of research so I will return when I have unravelled it.

8:15 pm, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Fiona said...

Butting in here, a couple of points, sorry Gill.

1/ I think it will turn out that quite a few home educating lone parents get into some form of self-employment where Working Tax Credits will pay the same amount as Income Support.

2/ For the vast majority of parents including lone parents,there aren't two clear cut options "self-sufficiency" versus "living off the state". On the one hand,everyone's a taxpayer already, if you count VAT. And on the other hand, most lone parents in paid employment still get Government subsidy in the form of tax credits.

3/ To me it's quite straightforward : some lone parents who home educate ( particularly if they have child with disability/SEN ) won't be "available for work",which is the prime criterion for JSA, therefore if proposals to move everyone off Income Support go ahead, the Jobseeker's Allowance regime will need to be modified and made much more flexible. This is the kind of thing One Parent Families org is saying as well.

4/ It doesn't sit well with me AT ALL , but I think we have more chance of winning the taxpayers' vote on this if we present as victims who find ourselves here through no fault of our own , ie we didn't set out either to be single parents or home educators.I think this will go down better than fighting on principle for taxpayers' subsidy of our "lifestyle choices". I won't be able to say it in the first person though because it isn't true, my whole THING is lifestyle choices.


10:09 pm, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Has anyone got a link to a simple, definitive guide to tax credits, if such a thing exists? I think I need to get my head around these things. I don't understand the complexities of WFTC at all and the DWP advisor I saw this time was no use whatsoever.

Also, should the DWP advisors not be handing out response leaflets on this consultation to all their lone parent 'clients'? The one I saw denied its existence and told me the matter was decided.

10:58 pm, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Elaine said...

It is interesting to read that these comments are mostly posted by people who are not a single mother and do not have to struggle to live on Income Support.

I recently attempted to return to work part-time and the govt were very helpful in assisting me and offering me large incentives. Unfortunately as my son had over 2 weeks sick in the first 5 weeks of my employment and needed counselling I had no choice to give up and be there for him. BUT what I did notice that was my child tax credit almost doubled to £135 a week for my two children to help with my child care costs when it was only costing the govt £54.75 a week for me to stay home and take care of them. I think everyone will agree that the children's own mother is no substitute for a paid stranger.
I keep looking but thats an interesting comment

12:50 am, October 24, 2007  
Blogger Elaine said...

Sorry should have made clear that was copied/ pasted from the link

12:51 am, October 24, 2007  

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