Saturday 28 May 2022
Hell Even So
Peter Hitchens writes:
By killing lifelong marriage we are killing children. Liberal Britain cannot see this, but until somebody does, the tragedies will continue.
Last week great publicity was rightly given to a report on children’s social care. It predicted that the number of children in care, now 80,000, would rise to 100,000 by 2032, costing taxpayers a colossal £15 billion a year.
Of course many terrible things happen to children in so-called ‘care’ apart from actual violence and death. The general outcomes for children deprived of what we would once have called stable family life, and deprived of fathers, are just not very good.
No doubt plenty of social workers, foster parents and others do all they can, and I am not trying to criticise these individuals but they just cannot do what a loving, stable home can do.
The report does recognise that ‘it is loving relationships that hold the solutions for children and families overcoming adversity’. But how will they be created by bureaucracy and state cash – the solutions generally offered by those who run our society?
A long time ago the Blairites promised us ‘joined-up thinking’, but in fact modern dogmas, in which there is no right and wrong and the old Christian rules are spurned, often refuse to see vital connections.
The tragedy of care is a direct consequence of 50 years in which the law, and our culture, have encouraged the idea that lifelong marriage is dispensable – a cruel prison from which adults should be free to escape. The latest loosening of the marriage laws, effectively allowing divorce on demand, follows the same failed view.
Should we not connect the number of children in care to the fact that, in England and Wales, the numbers getting married fell in 2019 to the lowest rate since records began? Less than 20 per cent of these weddings were in a religious building, where the idea that marriage is for life is still pretty much insisted upon.
Many modern weddings are lavish affairs in beautiful places, but they simply do not demand the commitment that couples used to make. And many modern couples, seeing which way the wind is blowing, never bother to marry at all. Such commitment is generally discouraged, even viewed as foolish.
And of course this results in much freer lives for adults in their prime, no longer tied down by crabby old rules. But the children are the ones who suffer, and whose freedom from worry and insecurity has been sacrificed to allow for grown-up freedoms to do as we will.
Among the well-off, the damage is generally not so bad, though there is damage. But among the poor, and in the parts of the country where the schools are bad and the streets are grim, it is another story. And that story often ends in care, with all its miseries, loneliness, insecurity and disappointment.
It is not the same sort of hell as the workhouses and the orphanages of the past were, but it can be hell even so. We need a modern Charles Dickens to depict it. If more people realised how bad it was, we might start to wonder if the gradual dismantling of stable marriage was such a good idea after all.
No-fault divorce has come into effect courtesy of the Conservative Party, so we need to give any marrying couple the right to register their marriage as bound by the divorce law that obtained prior to 1969, give any religious organisation the right to specify that any marriage that it conducted would be so bound, give existing married couples the right to re-register their marriages as being so bound, and remove the restriction of civil partnerships to unrelated couples, since civil partnerships, as such, have no sexual aspect.