Yasmin is right to take a stand against the presumption in favour of “supporting” parents of children at risk instead of taking the children into care. The welfare of the child must always take priority: the “rights” of parents to retain the care of their children should be discarded as soon as those children are found to be at risk from physical or sexual abuse. There are, tragically, plenty of families in this country where parents, or parents and their partners, believe their children are their property with which they can do whatever they please. Any intervention by the state is regarded with hostility and outrage. This is a culture encouraged by many on the political right, the same people, in fact, who are the first to call for resignations when the “nanny state” doesn’t intervene early or often enough and, consequently, a child dies.
But she’s wrong to dismiss the rights of parents to choose not to let their children learn sex education until they reach an age at which the parents are comfortable with it. And just because some parents won’t let their children take part in some extracurricular activities does not mean the state should have the right to second guess those decisions.
In this, Iain is right: the family is a profoundly important institution and the areas and occasions when the state can overrule parents must be rare and carefully limited.
But those limits should always include the right to care for children where their families are clearly failing to do so.
In fact there’s probably a lot more for these two (Iain and Yasmin) to agree about than to disagree about. Despite Iain’s portrayal of Yasmin’s demonising “all parents and families”. In fact she specifically pays tribute to the responsible and loving majority:
Millions of families are units of co-operation, mutuality, care and love. It is never easy but they are able to nurture their young. I salute them, at times envy them.
But one thing is welcome in all of this: Baby P’s terrible fate has sparked a national debate which, I really hope, will result in positive changes. We all want the same thing – for every child in the country to have the love and security they deserve. I honestly couldn’t care less whether the solutions come from the right or the left – I’ve never been a great fan of the numerology associated with angels dancing on pinheads.
But I care very much that we find those solutions.