Lone parents threatened by budget out, says Labour MP

Diane Abbott is a single parent juggling a political career and motherhood. At a conference in Scotland, Abbott will hit back at a Government she believes is continuing to stigmatise her. Stephen Naysmith reports.

Diane Abbott MP will call for a realistic attitude to single parents when she speaks at a conference in Stirling against a backdrop of renewed assaults from the political right. Abbott. herself a lone parent. has long been outspoken in their defence. She visits Scotland for the conference organised by One Parent Families Scotland to mark their 50th anniversary. Since her election in 1987. Abbott has been Britain‘s first and only black woman MP. She clairrrs. only half jokingly. that single parenthood is a strength in her chosen workplace. ‘First. I can manage with very little sleep.‘ she has said. ‘Second i am very flexible and third. I can put up with a lot of childish babble.‘

Abbott accuses Parliament of being male-dominated and out of touch. saying of the all-male select committee on employment. ‘lts enquiry into the issue of working women might be better informed if its members had to get up at 6am each morning. dress a two year old and get him or her to nursery before heading to the Palace of Westminster.‘

In recent weeks. single parents have faced regular accusations of immorality. or been accused of starting families for the wrong motives. But Abbott is a daunting opponent for those who attempt to stigrrratise lone parents. ‘There‘s this strong myth that young girls get pregnant just to get a council flat.‘ she said. ‘I believe that single mothers are like a lot of cabinet ministers - they have sex first and think about it afterward!‘

Witticisms aside. the conference comes at a time of anxiety for single parent families. As well as regular assaults from MPs and newspapers. there are strong indications that the November budget will slash benefits aimed specifically at them. Last week. John Townend. chairman of the governrnent‘s backbench finance committee. called unmarried teenage mothers ‘an annoyance to decent

I River rundown Nature conservation group WWF Scotland has warned that Scottish rivers and the surrounding countryside are under threat front poor management and pollution. With species of fish and birds facing extinction. a new initiative Called Wild River has been launched by WWF to combat the problem. Increased development around river edges. the leaching of agricultural chemicals into rivers and increased amounts of water abstracted for commercial purposes have all contributed to the decline in

people' last week. He suggested that they should consider having abortions: ‘With the option of contraception. abortion and adoption. we should announce that. whilst we are honouring benefits to existing unmarried mothers. in the future these will be scaled down.‘ The Govemment clearly wants to claw back some of the £9 billion it claims are spent on single parents each year. with two benefits in the firing line. One-parent family benefit of £6.30 a week and a £5.20 weekly supplement for those on income support may be scrapped. However. despite the ; emphasis front Tory MPs and the media 3 on teenage mothers. only five per cent i ofthe 1 million unmarried mothers on

income support are between sixteen

, and nineteen. according to the

I Department of Social Security‘s own figures.

This infuriates families who find themselves stereotyped to fit a myth. Catherine is a single parent who is separated front the father of two children. ‘Because of the media and the , Tory government everyone has it in l mind that all lone parents are ; teenagers.‘ she said. ‘They think people

I the quality of Scottish rivers. ‘Scotland‘s rivers have the potential to heal themselves given halfa chance.‘ said WWF Scotland director Simon Pepper

I Seeing red An image made up of lipstick kisses by Joanna Lumley are among the prints to be auctioned at the Red Ribbon Art Show. with proceeds going to Glasgow-based HIV education project PHACE West. Other artists contributing to the show include Alasdair Gray. Adrian Wiszniewski and Elizabeth Blackadder. The auction is on Friday 3 November at 6pm in the Original Print Shop. 25 King Street.

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Single parent families: still causing moral Panic:

are not working.just having kids to lots ofdifferent gtrys. They shouldn‘t keep promoting that.‘

Since she is neither teenage. nor unemployed. Catherine is furious at the attitudes she encounters. She works as a finance clerk in Glasgow. ‘I‘m very lucky because a lot of single parents find it hard to get full time work because of child care.‘ she said.

‘With the option of contraception, abortion and adoption, we should announce that, whilst we are honouring benefits to existing unmarried mothers, in the future these will be scaled down.’

Conservative MP John Townend

Catherine was so anxious about attitudes to single parents that she continued to put ‘married' on her CV until she got thejob. ‘I didn't want employers to think i was single and might be taking days off for the kids or anything.‘ she said.

Glasgow and the work is exhibited until Sat ll.

I Eating curfew Edinburgh restaurants are being forced to stop serving alcohol at lam. following the extension of the drinking curfew which already applies to the city‘s pubs.

I M aid A £250,000 fund has been set up by Glasgow City Council to assist arts organisations facing an uncertain future with local govemment reorganisation. Companies whose major source of income is from local authorities have been unable to budget beyond April with any certainty. when the council structure changes. The

larr Maxwell, inforrrration officer with One Parent Families Scotland. agrees that despite 50 years of campaigning. the discrimination single parents face is still strong. ‘thn it was started up. the organisation was dealing with “moral welfare“. educating parents so that they didn‘t have children out of wedlock. It has moved on slightly but not much. there is still that element of moral panic.‘ he said. ‘You just have to read the Daily Mail to see how little the situation has changed.‘

One of the benefits which is rumoured to be for the chop, applies to those claiming Farrrily Credit and could have an appalling effect, according to Maxwell. ‘lt would hit those who are employed. but earning low wages. the rrrost vulnerable position to be in.‘ he said ‘lnvesting in employment opportunities and childcare is a better bet. We don‘t want the budgets balanced at the expense of lone parents -- it needs a different approach.‘

The Stirling (‘mrfel'ence 'l’mm Mural Weljirre In Mural Paint" is on Friday 3 November. Details One Pure/rt Families Stir/land (m 0/3] 556 3899.

Citizens‘ Theatre in Glasgow. which receives substantial giants from both the city council and Strathclyde Region, has said it will have to go dark next summer if it loses cash in the shake-up.

l Proud again After Scotland‘s first gay Pride festival in Edinburgh last year attracted over 5000 people. its organisers voted to hold the 1996 event in Glasgow. The Pride committee is now looking for volunteers to help organise the event. with a public meeting to discuss plans being held on Saturday 18 November at Strathclyde House. India Street at 2pm.

The List 3- l6 Nov I995 5