£4 BILLION – the current outstanding child maintenance bill

£4 billion.

This is the outstanding arrears of child maintenance owed in England and Wales. According to a report by the charity Gingerbread called Missing Maintenance, the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) estimates that only £467 million will ever be recovered.This leaves nearly one half of single parent families, the vast majority headed by women, living in poverty.

The current Conservative government is in the process of closing the Child Support Agency (CSA) to replace it with the Child Maintenance Service, which charges women £20 for the privilege of opening a file and then a sum each month if some semblance of the maintenance is actually paid. The new vaunted system has seen only 53% of the families registered receiving maintenance with 90 000 people having not paid during one three month period. There is already nearly £53 million in unpaid maintenance. Many of the families will receive only negligible amounts of money, as the DWP does not require the full maintenance to be paid in order for the account to be registered as compliant. Realistically, a father of 4 earning £70 000 a year can pay only £5 a month and still be included within the 53% statistic.

Equally problematic is the fact that the Child Maintenances Service is actively writing to the primary caregivers to request they ‘forgive’ the debt owed by non-paying fathers – as though the primary caregivers of children, who are overwhelmingly women, can neglect to pay rent, council tax and the credit card debts they rack up buying groceries knowing these debts will be ‘forgiven’. As Polly Toynbee makes clear,

Some 90% of CSA cases have now been transferred over to the CMS, but only 13% of mothers affected have decided to pay the new fees and apply to the CMS: the DWP must be pleased, as it had publicly estimated that 63% would pursue their claims. All the pressure in official letters is to deter mothers. The £20 fee may be a mild block, along with charging fathers 4%, but the evidence suggests mothers just give up when prodded by these letters.

Charging mothers to use the Child Maintenance Service is simply a way for the government to abdicate responsibility. They are very clear that the sole purpose is to force more parents into dealing with child maintenance themselves. In doing so, they have refused to recognise the reason why men, and it is overwhelmingly men, refuse to pay maintenance: it is both a punishment and a form of control over their former partners. This is male entitlement writ large by men who do not care about the welfare of their children.

We need to start calling the refusal to pay maintenance what it really is: financial child abuse. Forcing your children to live in poverty because you cannot be bothered to support them or refusing to punish the mother are not the signs of ‘good fathers’. It is the hallmark of an abusive father.

It is not difficult to implement child maintenance policies that are effective and ensure that men cannot hide their assets. Placing the Child Maintenance Service under the heading of HM Revenue & Customs so that child maintenance is garnished directly from the salary of the non-resident parent. This coupled with actual punitive policies for those who refuse to pay, such as a fee for every missed payment, interest accrued on outstanding payments, and the use of enforcement agents (bailiffs) to confiscate personal property, and, potentially, criminal proceedings would see an immediate increase in the number of men who start to pay their maintenance. Canada’s maintenance enforcement program has the right to suspend the driver’s licenses and passports of men who are in arrears recognising that the legal obligation to pay maintenance being higher than the desire to vacation in Hawaii.

There is a quote bandied about in discussions of child contact and child maintenance that says ‘children aren’t pay per view’, as though children were nothing more than a possession to be passed about. As with Women’s Aid campaign, Child First: Safe Contact Saves Lives, we need to stop talking about children as possessions and start talking about children’s rights.[7] Children have the right to live free from violence. Children also have the right to live outwith poverty.

The erasure of men’s financial responsibility for their children, supported by government policy, is an absolute disgrace. It is, simply, state sanctioned child abuse.

 

Gingerbread’s Missing Maintenance Report

Child First: Safe Contact Saves Lives Petition

 

 

Into the Woods: Could have been funny but ended up Mother-hating (Spoilers)

(spoilers)

Into the Woods is meant to be a modern twist on the traditional fairy tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel. Their stories are tied together by the Baker and his wife who cannot conceive a child due to a curse placed on their house by the witch next door. They need to find 4 items in three days to lift the curse: a cape as red as blood, corn-silk hair, a white as milk cow and a golden slipper.

This construction of the Baker and ‘his wife’ sets the scene for the whole film. The bumbling baker who can’t remember a simple set of instructions is the hero, whilst his possession-wife is brave, smart, funny, kind and dies. The baker gets everything he wanted in life: 3 children and a maid in Cinderella. His wife is killed. The idea that a ‘good’ family would be so desperate for a child that they would steal from another child is rather bizarre too. At least, the wife steals hair from Rapunzel. The baker, on the other hand, can’t steal from Little Red Riding Hood and returns her cape the moment he steals it. He earns the cape by killing the wolf.

I’m not a fan of the ‘women so desperate for a child they will do anything’ trope. The baker wants a child too but he isn’t punished for his failure to conceive – only his wife. His refusal to acknowledge his wife’s contributions to the marriage are not seen as flaws but the signs of a ‘good’ man.

The representation of women in the film is entirely sexist – all of them have serious character flaws. Little Red Riding Hood is so greedy she steals from the bakery AND eats the treats for her grandmother. Both her mother and grandmother are killed. The original curse on the witch was placed on her by her mother in punishment for failing to notice a thief. The witch curses her neighbours because she’s spiteful and hates her aged body. The original thief is the baker’s father who is forced into it by his pregnant wife (the father runs away but that’s because he’s sad not bad like the women). The witch steals Rapunzel to punish the mother. The baker’s wife dies because of her desire for a child. The woman giant is killed because she seeks justice for the theft of her property and the death of her husband (yes, the giant wants to eat Jack but Jack did steal from him first). Jack’s mother dies because she’s not very bright and thinks her son’s dim too.

Rapunzel and Cinderella are the only two women not ‘punished’ although Cinderella is sentenced to a life time of cleaning up after the baker and raising his children. Rapunzel goes off with the lesser of the two dim princes but without learning about her birth family. They are also not mothers and it is mothers who are classed as deserving of death.

Johnny Depp’s performance as the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood is the most ridiculous part of the film. It isn’t scary but rather creepy in the traditional sense. He stalks the young Red Riding Hood using words like lush. Granted, we know he wants to eat her but actually he appears at the sexual predator common in 80s stranger-danger messages for children. The sexualised imagery in this song is in complete contrast to a film that is obviously aimed at children. Beyond the distressing imagery of an adult man stalking a child with sexualised language, Depp’s performance is pretty much Jack Sparrow and his character from Dark Shadows all rolled into one. As much fun as Sparrow is, he’s already had 4 films – and Dark Shadows is a dreadful mess of drivel.

In contrast, the song ‘Agony’ performed by the two princes was a brilliant piece of satire:

It made them both look as pathetic, whiny and ridiculous as they are (and thank Gaia Cinderella dumped Charming’s arse).

What would have made this a true modern twist would be for the mothers to have survived and lived together. The baker punished for not recognising his wife as a person and Jack and Little Red Riding Hood held accountable for stealing without being killed. Even the witch reacted out of desperation and self-loathing. Her crimes are ones to be pitied. Instead, this is a film where mothers are punished for mothering.

10 reasons why single mums are great in bed.

The Metro is renown for its inability to accurately report on male violence against women and girls. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the article which suggests that Dr. Melvin Morse was justified in waterboarding his step-daughter because he researched near-death experiences in children. That was truly an awe-inspiring piece of journalism. Granted, I’m still slightly perturbed about the fact that their staff can’t tell the difference between bad sex and rape, but that’s only to be expected in a newspaper that thinks sexual violence is entertainment.

Today’s evidence of The Metro’s Misogyny is 10 reasons why single mums are great in bed.

First off we have the: unrealistic, patronising and downright freaking dangerous assumptions about single mothers:

There are plenty of things single mums have mastered the art of – multi-tasking, compromise and patience to name a few.

But it’s not just the ability to breathe deeply and count to ten that they rock at.

When it comes to sex, single mums have got it going on – and it’s got nothing to do with gratitude.

‘Compromise’ being code for doing exactly what their male partner wants regardless of their own pleasure. After all, no one ever talks about men “compromising” during sex. This is always the woman’s job. And, what’s with the obsession with insisting single mothers are still viable fucktoys?

And, they can fuck right off with the patience and ability to count to ten horseshit. Single mothers aren’t Mary Poppins in Ultimo. In the UK, many can’t afford Ultimo since they are living in poverty whilst their ex-partner commits child abuse by refusing to financially support his children. They multi-task because they have NO choice. Multi-tasking and patience don’t exactly come with the new hormones after you push a baby out of your vagina (or after a c-section).

1. Body confidence

When you’ve pushed a human being out of your vagina, suddenly something like a 3-inch stretch mark carries less significance.

Trust me on this one, you don’t want more detail.

I’m so glad that Katy Horwood thinks all single mothers have great body confidence. I’ve never met a woman who was actually confident about their body – never mind women who are juggling work with childrearing without help. But, hey, let’s pretend single mothers don’t actually livein a white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy and are required to pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test whilst cooking dinner (or shoving chicken nuggets and chips in the oven because they are exhausted).

We also need to be totally honest here – there is a reason the images of single mothers that accompany the article feature young, attractive white women: because even Horwood doesn’t believe fat women can have body confidence. And, we all know that Black single mothers are pretty much the scions of satan walking the earth. There is a reason the term reproductive justice was coined by Black Women and it isn’t because they were worried about looking sexy for random dudes reading the Metro. Being poor is just too tacky to mention. And, we won’t mention disabled mothers. Who wants to fuck them?

2. Appreciation

There’s nothing like Peppa Pig on loop for the last 36 months and daily conversations about the pros and cons of a roller-skating disco party to encourage gentle enquiries about the availability of beds at your local mental health hospital.

If you want your date to cry with joy for just leaving the house, date a single mum – thankful for a parking ticket if it means they can have a conversation with another adult about something other than Disneyland, can you imagine what they’re like in the sack.

Single mothers are so desperate to be fucked that they are grateful for a dude shoving their penis in them. It doesn’t matter how horrible or abusive a man is, single mothers are so desperate for sex they’ll do anything (obviously this doesn’t apply to fat women or lesbians, because they don’t count as the acceptable face of “single mothers”

3. Hot sex and lots of it

Your date gets out once a month and has a babysitter until 10.30pm.

Cinema? Art gallery? Walk along the Thames? LOL.

Single mothers: always gagging for it. You don’t even have to pretend you actually want to date them. They’ll be so desperate they’ll shag you in the backseat of a Mini in a Tescos parking lot.

4. No small talk

And if she’s lucky enough to have a free evening, not only will you get the reverse cowgirl instead of a stroll through Richmond park but you’ll also get the pleasure of some serious zeds after.

If you think you’ve mastered the art of dozing off after a shag, try three nights of unbroken sleep in the last four years.

Let the snooze off begin.

Because, really, who the fuck wants to actually talk to a single mother. You might have to learn their name or something.

5. Condoms

If there is one thing guaranteed to make a woman stringent about birth control, it’s solo child rearing.

The only unexpected surprise she wants from you is the ability to get it up again 10 minutes after your last orgasm.

Gosh, who knew that birth control was TOTALLY the responsibility of the woman? Granted, I’m a single mother so maybe my perception is skewed but don’t men have the penis that the condom goes on? Are they no longer capable of putting one on themselves? Or, saying no to sex without a condom?

6. Wet wipes

Always in a single mum’s handbag. Handy.

Apparently, there’s now a law banning men from buying wet wipes. Who knew?

7. Biological clocks

Tick, tick, tick.

Is the scary sound you will not be hearing from your single mum girlfriend after two months of dating.

Been there, done it… now where were we, ah yes – orgasms.

Cus, it’s not like men’s fertility and the quality of their sperm doesn’t deteriorate with age. Or, men might want to have children. Or, women who don’t want to have children. Or, non-single mothers are so desperate to get pregnant they’ll fuck anyone.

8. They know what they want

When time is precious and adult interaction scarce, suddenly getting things right first time matters a lot.

Forget fumbling sex and not knowing what’s working or not – single mums spell it out.

And without the luxury of Sunday lie-ins and seven day-a-week shag options, single mums make sure it counts – and rarely get headaches.

Single mums never get headaches and women that do: well, they’re just hateful. Who gives a shit about consent when a dick is involved?

Course, if you are still having ‘fumbling sex’ over the age of 21, the problem is you. Not the women you’re dating.

9. Role play

Spending the majority of her waking life barking orders, when it comes to role play in the bedroom, single mums have it wrapped up.

You’ve been a bad boy, straight to bed with no supper!

Ya hear me.

Because women who aren’t single mothers are incapable of expressing their sexual desires. Or, something.

10. But know how to cuddle like a pro too

Just don’t ask for milk.

Because this isn’t creepy at all.

Katy Horwood is supposedly a relationships expert – one steeped in misogyny with a soupçon of racism. Just for funsies.