Sunday, 3 February 2008

Priority: does the "person" come first or does the "country" come first?

The BBC news website is carrying a story today headlined "Tories ponder baby nurses for all". The story says in part:
Plans for a dedicated maternity nurse to help every new mother in her home during her baby's first week of life are being considered by the Tories. Based on the system in the Netherlands, the plan would give mothers specialist help for up to six hours a day. The nurses would advise on bathing and breastfeeding, as well as monitoring babies' vital early development.

So far so good, and this reflects the sort of support that health visitors already provide on a much more limited scale. At face value, I am sure that many mothers, particularly single mothers, would value the support suggested and gain much from it. But the BBC story goes on to quote the Tory shadow children's secretary Michael Gove:
"If we can provide a better level of support for parents in the first months, we may be able to help crack some of the problems of inequality and social mobility which hold us back as a country..."

So, is the suggested support really being provided to help the mother and the baby (ie the social support of the structures of the state being at the service of the person, which would be very much in the spirit of Catholic social teaching) or is it really being provided primarily to help the economic interests of the state (ie the interests of the person being subservient to those of the state, a principle that is essentially tyrannical)? If the mother already has 2.1 children, will part of the support be insistent advice on contraception? Will it include pressure (sorry, advice) on returning to work? And once the system is in place, who will govern the terms of reference of the support being provided, so that they do not creep into areas not originally expected?


Anonymous said...

i share your reservations Joe. Nice blog..will add you to my links..

la mamma said...

Oh, I'm with you on that one, Joe. I don't 'work', therefore the state gets no NI contribution from me, nor from the nanny/childminder whom I'd have to pay to bring my children up for me.

My husband and I have one salary between us and he pays higher-rate tax (we're lucky that he's eligible, I know). Now if we earned that amount between us, we'd be paying regular-rate tax. Is that recognised by HMRC? Oh no.

I'm very well informed about all the help I could receive with child-care costs should I wish to return to 'work' (it would be less 'work' than not working - I have four children, the eldest of whom is 5). I'm well infomed because of all the information I'm sent from the gvt at every opportunity. I remember one leaflet that said 'a registered childminder offers the best care for your child'. I jest not. I suppose what they meant was a 'registered' child-minder may provide better care than a 'non-registered' one, but that's not what they wrote.

Right, rant over!

la mamma said...

P.S. Tagged you!

VA said...

Well, if they model it on the Netherlands, that certainly will not be the case :) I'm Dutch, and actually I had no idea that our system was anything special, but how it works here is that the families get someone to help out, instruct both parents on how to take care of the baby if it's the first child, and relief a bit of the anxiety that comes with the new job, give mum some rest, etcetera etcetera. They're mostly "more experienced" nurses and wouldn't let themselves be used for any political agenda!