Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Diane Abbott: Church is only bastion of order in Hackney

A Parliamentary debate on knife crime (9 June) was mentioned in the Hackney Gazette last week. Like this report from the London Echo the Gazette focused on Diane Abbott's comments about educating mothers, not sending them out "to stack shelves".

In her speech she also raised concerns about the ability of mothers from some communities to parent effectively when not surrounded by their extended families. She also said that the church was sometimes the "only bastion of order" in inner-city boroughs.

Her views not only appear to conflict with government policy, but also with Hackney Council which is attempting to tackle its huge 'workless' (unemployed and not seeking a job) population. Hackney now also faces rapidly rising numbers of dole claimants.

The speech went down well with Conservative David Davies MP for Monmouth (Not David Davis former shadow Home Secretary): "It has been a pleasure to listen to the debate. I am sorry that the House is so empty at the moment, because the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) made, without doubt, the best speech of the afternoon; indeed, it was one of the best speeches that I have heard in this place."

Davies later said that he had visited areas like Hackney and felt intimidated by gangs of youths: "Frankly—I am sorry to have to say this—my thought on returning from one of those visits was, “Thank God I don’t live in that area and my children don’t go to school there.” That is just being honest."

Diane Abbott's response was: "I see the same groups on my way home, as I live in my constituency. I would say this to the hon. Gentleman: if you were a middle-aged black woman
and looked them straight in the eye, you might find that they took a step backwards."

(Diane may have learned her technique on how to handle difficult customers here: technique devised for keeping werewolves at bay)

To which Davies replied: "If the hon. Lady looked me straight in the eye in a venomous way, I would probably take a step backwards as well."

For a link to Diane Abbott's speech click here but scroll down the page to the speech.

Turn to the church?

In one part of her speech Diane Abbott made this surprising statement about the role of the church in areas like Hackney: "The answer to those problems is long-term; there is no question about that. We have to look at our policies on work, and look at how we support parents. We have to look at how we work with the Churches. I admit that I am not a regular church-goer myself, but often the only bastion of order, values and boundaries in inner-city areas is the Church."

The problems she was talking about were that mothers from communities which have a tradition of extended families are not equipped to deal with parenting on their own. She said that this had contributed to the rise in gang culture but she also pointed out that that it was possible to find top performing students and criminal gang members in the same family.

Abbott said: "In the summer holidays, when I took my bus pass—I am not a driver—and took my son to reading schemes in the library, or youth projects in museums, or whatever a person could take a little child to on a bus, I would often find that I was the only ethnic minority parent there. It is not that other minority parents in Hackney do not care for their children, but their notions of being a parent are limited.

"They perhaps come from cultures where the child would have been brought up collectively by aunties and grannies. Instead, they are isolated on some estate, and the aunties and grannies are not within reach. The parents are thrown back on to their own knowledge, which is limited.

"I take the view, I am afraid, that my Government’s emphasis on putting single-parent mothers out to work is wrong. Some of those single-parent mothers need first to be taught to be decent parents. Once they have been taught to be decent parents who are at home when their children come home from school, it will be time to talk about sending them out to work to stack shelves."

Abbott's view on educating rather than employing mothers not only conflicts with the government, it is also appears to conflict with Hackney Council's leadership which has made tackling worklessness a top priority over the last few years - lone parents get a special mention on Team Hackney's introductory page on the borough's economy)

Team Hackney provided further detail on plans to tackle worklessness in its Word  (doc) Document Team Hackney Worklessness Model which "sets out the priority groups and associated targets relating to worklessness" with a "the primary focus" on workless 18 – 24 year olds but also adds that "Other priority groups include lone parents, people on incapacity benefits and those that are economically inactive."

On 10 June the Mirror picked-up DA's story about few Hackney unemployed getting jobs on the Olympic site. London 2012 Olympics: £1.1bn cost but just 115 jobless locals taken on

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