, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Together with the right-wing press, he has already persuaded the general public to turn on the sick, the disabled, and the unemployed. Now Iain Duncan Smith (or Insidious Dole-Snatcher, as he has been dubbed) is turning his sights onto so-called “broken” families.

Iain Duncan Smith is a strange, strange man. His latest speech is proof of this. In it, he tells us all why it is a bad thing for parents to break up with their partners and form new relationships.

Apparently it’s much better to stay locked into loveless marriages, creating myriad social and psychological problems for the children, than it is to accept that a relationship isn’t working and move on to something better.

The Crip-killer General turned his attention on so-called “broken” families last week, announcing a series of new “outcome measures” whose stated intention is to track whether his policies promote “lasting life change”.

(I think we can be sure that anyone who falls foul of Mr Smith’s odious standards will certainly endure “lasting life change” of some kind – like the average of 73 people per week who, during assessment for his Employment and Support Allowance, die. You can’t get a more lasting life change than death!)

The first of these new measures checks up on the proportion of children who live with the same parents from birth, and asks whether those parents have a good-quality relationship.

“We are driving home the message that social programmes should promote family stability and avert breakdown,” he said.

Let’s consider the implications of what he’s saying. He wants to keep families together – that’s a good thing, right?

Not always. Notice he’s not suggesting that he’ll do anything real to help families with problems. He’ll just check whether they’re happy or not.

I know a thing or three about families that break up. I’m a stepfather myself (well, my stepson and stepdaughter consider me that way, even though their mother and I never married). I got into the relationship after the father had left; mother and children were not a very happy family at the time. There were arguments and upsets – a lot of dysfunctionality.

This changed after I joined them. It took a while, I admit, but things started to change for the better. Some long-term issues haven’t fully healed but for the most part, things turned out all right. Nobody in the family is a criminal. The children – who are both now adults – have held down jobs, although my stepson’s time in a local theatre was cut short when the government cut its funding. Thanks for nothing, Mr Smith!

What I’m saying is, family break-up does not lead, inevitably, to social problems and crime, and Mr Smith does the people of the UK a huge disservice by implying this.

In fact, he’s attacking step-parents, single parents – anyone who does not fit into his narrow-minded opinion of what constitutes a proper family group. He sees us all as a problem that he needs to fix.

No thank you, Mr Smith! My family and I got along just fine without you!

And besides, what’s he going to do to help families with problems?

Is the Department for Work and Pensions going to come into family homes to measure whether children are growing up in “stable, loving families”? Or will private companies be paid to force couples to stay together, no matter what real-life problems this may cause? Is the government seriously suggesting abusive partners should be kept in family homes?

Are couples looking at benefit sanctions, if they decide to split up – in effect denying them the short-term help they would need to get back on their feet as individuals? This seems more likely.

In fact the only solid plan I could find was to hand over huge wodges of cash to private companies Prevista, Social Finance and 3SC – apparently to shoehorn youngsters into the state-sponsored slavery known as the “work programme”.

So it’s actually just a get-rich quick scheme for companies run by Mr Smith’s friends. Let’s all take a moment to remember how one company – I believe it was A4E but I sit ready to be corrected – took £400 per claimant, before handing them over to Job Centre Plus and a £300 work scheme. The £100 taken by the company – for doing nothing – was excused as an administration cost.

I suppose we could call it jobs for the boys (and girls).

… Just not our boys and girls.