'Single parents on benefits unfairly stigmatised' says JK Rowling - do you agree? (From News Shopper)
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'Single parents on benefits unfairly stigmatised' says Harry Potter author JK Rowling - do you agree?
10:43am Friday 20th September 2013 in News
DO YOU think, as Harry Potter author JK Rowling claims, that single parents on benefits are unfairly stigmatised?
The best-selling author wrote this week of the negativity she faced in the mid-1990s when, despite being a graduate who had been in full-time employment all her life, she found herself as a single mum living on benefits after the break-up of her marriage.
She recalled the stigma she came up against while working a few hours a week at a local church in Scotland carrying out clerical duties.
“My overriding memory of that time is the slowly evaporating sense of self-esteem ... because it was slowly dawning on me that I was now defined, in the eyes of many, by something I had never chosen. I was a Single Parent, and a Single Parent On Benefits to boot.
“I remember the woman who visited the church one day when I was working there who kept referring to me, in my hearing, as The Unmarried Mother.”
Rowling, writing for an advice and support service for single parents, of which she is president, continued: “Constant bombardment with words like ‘scrounger’ has a deeply corrosive effect. Assumptions made about your morals, your motives for bringing your child into the world or your fitness to raise that child cut to the core of who you are.”
Even after she achieved success with the Harry Potter books the single parent tag continued to follow Rowling, who went on: “I find the language of ‘skivers versus strivers’ particularly offensive when it comes to single parents, who are already working around the clock to care for their children.
“Such rhetoric drains confidence and self-esteem from those who desperately want, as I did, to get back into the job market.”
In her piece for Gingerbread, the author wrote “I am prouder of my years as a single mother than of any other part of my life” and had advice for the government on how to help struggling families: “Rather than focusing on ever more ‘austerity measures’, it’s investment in single parent employment that will allow single parents to work their own way out of poverty and secure real savings from the welfare bill.
“Nothing outlandish: affordable childcare, decent training, employers embracing flexible hours, and a long, hard look at low pay. I certainly identify with the results of a survey among single parents conducted last year which revealed that childcare costs remain the biggest barrier to work, closely followed by a shortage of flexible jobs: exactly the problems I faced when Jessica was young.”
Do you think single parents are unfairly stereotyped? Are people bringing up kids with the help of benefits often judged too quickly or too harshly? Are you a single parent yourself and do you feel you’ve been stigmatised? Add your comments below.
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