Supporting Families -Scottish Parliament speech 5th. November 2009

This is an interesting and important debate.
The central issue for all our children is their entitlement to live in safety and security in a loving home, and to be nurtured.
It is not just in poor families that children are denied those things.
I would be concerned by any implication that poverty means that children are denied a healthy and happy upbringing. In my constituency, there are families who, despite their financial circumstances, could teach us all a lesson about how to parent.
As a parent, I often have grave anxieties about my capacity to find a safe place to rear my children.
I am concerned at the implication that the issue is one for "them out there" and not for all of us as a society. In that context, a financial incentive to marry is entirely irrelevant.
The issue that is of concern is the extent to which we value children and families.
Elizabeth Smith talked about Iain Duncan Smith's Damascene conversion in Easterhouse.
He may have wished to reflect on the issue a little earlier, in the 1980s, when people were telling him what was happening in communities throughout Scotland and beyond.
It is not enough to create the impression that poverty is a plague in which no political decisions have been made. People live in difficulty because of political decisions—we should reflect on that.
The motion
"regrets that one in four children"
lives in a family in which there is a lone parent.
First, there are parents who are widowed who actively choose to spend the rest of their lives bringing up and focusing on their children.
The implication that that is the wrong choice is cause for concern.
Equally, for some people it is a courageous decision to leave a marriage to protect their children, especially given the financial implications for women of making that choice.
There is a dichotomy at the heart of the issue.
When we talk about domestic abuse, how often do we hear the question, "Why doesn't she leave?"
However, when she leaves, it is implied that she is creating problems for her children.
One of the problems for lone parents is not the fact of lone parenthood in itself but the way in which we support them financially and give them economic opportunity.
When I was a teacher, there were a number of occasions on which youngsters were disturbed by the periodic reappearance of their father, who caused mayhem in their homes.
One young boy could not, when his father was at home, sleep for fear of what would happen to his mother and could not, as a result, learn the next day.
The Tories ought to move away from the glib suggestion that lone parenthood in itself is the problem.
If we wish to support families, we need to address how inequality and disadvantage are experienced, and how we can create economic opportunities, safe communities and safe families to allow people to thrive.
Yesterday we got information on a skills strategy, which did not reflect that
The enterprise strategy contains no responsibility for place or people and does not address the inequality that disproportionately leaves women as carers in low-paid jobs, with no recognition of their needs.
We need an education system that talks about more than buildings and class sizes, and which recognises that some of our children cannot even access education because of what is happening in their wider life.
We need to understand the particular pressures on different kinds of families, such as the families of disabled children.
I regret that the Scottish Government did not step up to the mark in addressing the transformational change that is required to support those families and which would allow those children and their siblings to achieve their potential.
On kinship care, there is an issue with the benefits system, but the Scottish Government has a responsibility to address the huge diversity between what is offered to kinship carers in different parts of the country.
It has to recognise that the issue is as much about children's rights as anything else.
The SNP Government needs to recognise the vulnerability of funding to the voluntary sector, which will have a consequence for families.
There ought to be no sacred cows—nothing should be off-limits.
There should, rather, be proper reflection on what is happening, in order that our families can be protected.