Obviously this is a controversial subject, but it can't be avoided. As a society we need to decide on how we are to deal with these issues.
Philpott was clearly mentally unwell in my eyes. 17 kids, and a fire that killed 6 of them. Whilst demanding the Council give him a bigger house.
I am medically allowed to flag up symptoms, and this is what I registered:
Delusion – The world does not owe you a living just because you've had kids. So this man was deluded. He did not live in the real world in plain English. His beliefs were not normal and could be seen as harmful in some ways.
Anxiety/ Paranoia – He's had 17 kids. Considering kids typically give love & loyalty unconditionally to their parent that's quite the loyal obeying army he's created. Why on earth did he need that many?
Promiscuity – He's had 17 kids. Yes, Promiscuity is a Mental Health symptom. And a dangerous one, as it can get the Service User ( mental health patient ) into all sorts of trouble. He may have 'needs', but those needs don't appear to be healthy.
To me that mix of symptoms is something like what Paranoid Schizophrenics get up to with their beliefs. Delusion & Anxiety are the key symptoms for Paranoid Schizophrenia ( always check these details with a proper Psychiatrist. I just do symptoms, but work with Schizophrenics a lot. )
Philpott is behind bars now so his surviving kids are safe, and hopefully his issues will be spotted and he'll start treatment as part of his rehabilitation. But could his now deceased kids have been saved? I think yes.
With Philpott there were so many warning signs. See the statements above. Was he mentally well enough to look after kids? Obviously not. And he did not volunteer to go to his GP to get help, so it would have been down to The Council to spot his Mental Health problems and intervene. Like how if someone is too ill to look after themselves they are sectioned by The Police or Social Workers. Sometimes you have to be a little cruel to actually be kind. Sometimes you have to intervene.
But what could they have done? In plain English they could have broken up the family and moved some kids out to nearby Foster parents. When a child is Fostered they can see their real parents if they want. Group activities can happen as well, so that the kids can stay in touch. So this is not about forced separation & child cruelty. It's about forced separation to rescue those kids. And the family can still spend weekends together and united easily enough. All it would have taken was a team of Foster Parents to get involved, provide more bedrooms & 'staff', & help Philpott raise his kids. This is about kindness. You mustn't punish those kids for the dodgy &/or irresponsible acts of their parents. Irresponsible breeding is a serious issue, contrary to what some people believe.
Also it's important to remember that some people have worked, had 3-4 kids, carried on working, and then got unlucky and lost their jobs. We are in a recession-come-depression after all. This isn't about them. They'll be out job hunting. This is about the small crowd who think the world owes them a living PURELY as they have had kids. There are 190 families in the UK with 10 children or more in them. There are going to be plenty with 6, 7, or 8 kids as well. Are you happy with this? Are you happy to pay for them as they pop out child after child?
The 'baby factory' phenomena ( where someone breeds for various reasons, including for Benefits ) is all very real. Although, in reality, a tiny phenomena it is still real. These people do exist. Some parents just decide to start having kids and simply do not stop. They then have a go at Society for not bailing them out when they run out of money &/ or space. As they struggle they blame others and then keep on breeding. Having kids is a choice in a modern age like ours after all, but some won't accept the responsibility &/or wear a condom.
If the Social Workers had gone in on the Philpott family sooner those kids would still be alive. And, odds are, Philpott would be getting medical help by now. I think that is a reasonable statement.
So it's obvious the Social Workers moving sooner would have helped. I think that's a fair conclusion so far.
So let's look at these big families. Why do they do it?
Those who have kids do so for various reasons. The most common ones are security in old age, seeing the family line continue, and the love and togetherness family usually brings. Most people have 2-3 kiddies, and decide that that's it for them. They have enough, the clan is assembled, and they then get on with raising the little so-and-so's.
Some asylum types may well have had big broods to make sure some kids live to adult-hood, but in The UK there is obviously no need for this. We have our NHS, and there are no wandering warlords shooting people like in places like Africa. The UK is much safer for kids, so many many more survive to adulthood. So you don't need to have as many to get them through, like they would have to back home. And this is accepted by most people ( the vast majority ). Our Infant Mortality Rate is very low compared to the wilder parts of Africa or The Middle East.
But for a small minority, as we know, they just don't stop dropping sprogs. They show the same symptoms ( beliefs, needs, & ideas ) Philpott did, and just pump out more and more kiddies. Irresponsible breeding.
This is why all 3 parties want a Benefits Cap. They all feel it's an important message to send to people to snap them out of the delusion that they'll just be bailed out by Taxpayers should they choose to create massive broods. The Torys have their flat cap, and Labour want a regional one. The Lib-dems are currently supporting the Tory flat-cap one, even though it does not allow for London Rates and as such forces poor people to leave Central London. Boris never did move to stop the 'Kosovo Style' ethnic cleansing of Central London that has now started.
Labour's regional Cap would allow for factors like London Weighting, so is considered by some to be a lot more flexible & realistic. The Torys & Lib-Dems seem focussed on clearing poor people out of Central London instead. Are you happy with this?
I'm writing all this as you, the Voters of Croydon, have a very big decision coming come Election 2014 ( Council Elections, so that's Social Housing and the like ) & Election 2015 ( The National Elections, so that's the Benefits Cap & Benefits generally ). Are The Torys getting it right? Or are Labour more accurate? Should there be a Benefits Cap? And if so which one?
I'm also hoping to raise Mental Health Awareness tied to this phenomena. If these parents creating their massive broods instead get Psychiatric help I'm confident they can be cured BEFORE it gets to the point where their kids end up in danger. And I'm not just talking Philpott here. I'm talking the damage of overcrowding.
If kids don't have enough space they can't grow properly both physically & mentally. They pick up problems like moodiness, short-tempers, tourettes, bad posture, deformed bones, and depression. And, needless to say, having to share a room with 3 other siblings really damages your ability to do your homework and ultimately get good grades at school. Hence why breaking up these large families can save those kids from this overcrowding issue ( the cruel to be kind bit I mentioned ). More parents & more bedrooms can REALLY help these kids out.
But it's important people think about this. It's your society. Do you want to just leave those kids with parents that are obviously not coping knowing those kids will suffer and not reach their full potential? Do you believe these kids should be left with their parents & the money just handed over? Can the Tax-payer afford to build 6-8 bedroom Mansions to cater for their demands, and should we? What if the parents are as ill ( risky ) as Philpott? Are you happy to take that risk? When would you send in the Social Workers to investigate?
Yeah, some very big questions there. What kind of society do you want to live in? Ultimately this will be your choice oh voter.
You'll find that large families on benefits will come up in Council records, so they can be spotted. So where is the limit where it goes from 'ok' to 'a bit crazy'? That's really what you have to decide.
Also, think about Carers. If there is a Disabled child or parent in the household there is full immunity from The Cap. And the Elderly are exempt as well. So Carers are, well, it's an important subject.
Under the current Con-Dem Benefits Cap Carers who look after a Disabled adult ( a child ( theirs ) who is disabled and is now over 18 ) WILL be effected by The Cap. So they ( The Carers and the kiddy-now-adult ) will most likely suffer &/or starve unless they put their adult Disabled Caree into Care. Is this the right idea? Please remember that with some Caree's they may be 46 ( for example ) but they could only have the mind of a child. That's how some conditions work. So if the family is forcibly broken up by the current Cap that Caree will genuinely be being separated from a caring & hard-working mummy & daddy. Is this the right thing to do?
Carers ( in their various shapes and sizes ) safe The NHS an estimated £119b per year by NOT using Care Homes. Carers care in the community so that Care Homes are not needed. The ENTIRE NHS budget itself is only £110b per year, so this gives you an idea as to how big a contribution Carers make. Without Carers we'd be stuffed, pure & simple.
And yet Carers Allowance ( their 'Income Support' style benefit to support them as they do this important job ) is only a measly £60.00 per week; which is why so many Carers are now having Mental Health breakdowns and burning out. They get paid less than Jobseekers, and Jobseekers is supposed to be tough to encourage work. So Carers Allowance is actually agony. Debt and a lack of cash generally ( with all the stress that brings ), when mixed with the stresses of their job, are crushing them. They're dropping like flies. And now some of them have the Benefits Cap in it's current form to worry about as well. So think about it. Should Carers be included in the Benefits Cap? Or is it a mistake to do what this Govt are doing?
I know there's a lot there, but even so. From what I can see, a small group of most-likely ill people have created such a storm that Carers are now being beaten up by the current Conservative-LibDem Govt. Do you approve of this, or are you opposed?
Have a think, and may the debate commence.
Christian Wilcox is the Chair of the Croydon Mental Health Forum ( politically neutral ), an NHS Executive ( Advisory ) for the South London & Maudsley ( politically neutral ), and works for the Labour Party privately.