Monday, 11 January 2010

The Responsibility Is Everyone’s…

…except the woman who chose to kill herself and her daughter. Jenni Russell takes out an onion for the case of Christelle Pardo in ‘CiF’:
Last month, just as the country was preparing for the annual celebration of a poor young woman giving birth to a son, the City of London coroner reported on the death of a young mother who had been given neither shelter nor support when she needed it. Christelle Pardo had been turned away not by a hardhearted innkeeper but by the state.
Really? Let's take an in-depth look, shall we?
Christelle fitted no stereotype. She was a 32-year-old Frenchwoman living in Hackney who had lived in Britain since she and her sister moved here in 1997. In May 2008 she graduated from London's Metropolitan University with a degree in philosophy.
I’d argue that she did, indeed, fit a stereotype.

She fitted the stereotype of someone who'd decided that responsibility and consequences were nothing she needed to trouble herself with. Also the stereotype of someone who has swallowed the concept of 'life long learning' to the point where it seemed only reasonable to study for philosophy; after all, what the world needs is more philosophers, right?
At about the same time she discovered she was pregnant.
Came as a surprise, did it? Perhaps she should have studied biology...
She looked for work while claiming jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit. Then in December 2008, the advisers at the jobcentre told her she no longer qualified for jobseeker's allowance. According to the Department for Work and Pensions the fact that she was within 11 weeks of giving birth disqualified her from being an active jobseeker. She was told to apply for income support instead.
You know what there's no mention of? A father.

Perhaps there wasn't one, and that's why Jenni is drawing this parallel?
What no one warned her was that European nationals who claim income support must provide more proof of residence than jobseekers have to.
Hmm, let’s think. Why might that be, then, Jenni?
Christelle had an eight-month period in 2003 when she said she had been working in a cafe but had no employment records to prove it. Her claim was turned down.

Once that happened, the welfare state stopped operating. Her housing benefit was automatically withdrawn. The state, having decreed she was not in a fit condition to look for work, took no further interest in how the penniless mother of a new baby was going to survive.
She had no employment records? But surely she was paying tax and insurance. Wasn't she?

And I suppose returning to her country of origin was out of the question?
Once she was dead, officialdom showed a little concern. The City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board announced that it would be conducting a serious case review, which is due to be published this month. It is hard not to be struck by the contrast between the state's reluctance to spend money on keeping Christelle alive, and its readiness to spend money on inquiring into her death.
No, that's merely the state having to spend resources on covering its backside when columnists begin weeping and rending their garments over the life-choices of society's inadequates...
The trap in which Christelle found herself is not unique. In the week before Christmas the Hackney Gazette gave another glimpse of this hidden problem when it reported that a Lithuanian woman with a newborn baby was among those who had been thrown out of a squat by police. She asked for emergency housing from Hackney and Walthamstow and was refused all help on exactly the same basis as Christelle; that without a solid five-year record she had no claim on the state.
She doesn't have any claim on the state. Why should she?
These cases raise hard questions about who should be supported by our collective generosity. The understandable logic behind the existing rules is that if someone cannot demonstrate that they have contributed to this society then the society has no reciprocal obligation to them.
Precisely. Particularly if that class is growing and growing and growing. Something has to give.
I don't believe this is a stance a civilised society can justify. It pitches foreign-born mothers back into a Victorian-style existence in which pregnancy may mean destitution and disgrace.
Forgive me, Jenni, but hasn’t something else changed since Victorian times? Such as the availability and efficacy of contraception?
But my reaction may be a minority one. On websites there is a striking lack of sympathy for the Christelles of this world, and a marked resentment about the number of people demanding our collective help.
Well, yes, and you'll find no relief here either.

After all, this was the week we learned that 'the state' was more than happy to grub up council tax monies yet leave the basics of survival to the individual. When basic services for UK residents paying through the nose are no longer carried out. When the law of the land is laughed at by those who treat it with the contempt it surely deserves.

So it's a bit rich to ask us to look with charity on someone who came here to take out what she never seems to have put in, and to expect the state to care more for her than she apparently cared for herself and her child, isn't it?


Anonymous said...

And I suppose returning to her country of origin was out of the question?

Absolutely not Julia! Her own country, France, where I live, would have split its sides laughing at the notion of housing benefit or job seekers allowance for someone who had contributed nothing to the State - and they are not noted for their sense of humour!
She would however, have had a full time job - dealing with the buraucracy encumbent on being a dependant of the State with child.
That could be why she was in the UK...

Mike Spilligan said...

What a beautiful job of "fisking" this is - first class, AP.
Anna has got there first, but my comment is "France is a faraway country of which we know little" and asking (politely, of course)this woman to return there might have put her at huge risk.

Mike said...

Why are men like snow storms?

Because, you never know how long they are going to last, how many inches your going to get or when they are going to come

James Higham said...

Julia, you say that philosophy is not much of a subject for someone to study, especially if she is unemployed but there is a long history through the centuries of people attending foreign places of learning in academia.

Academia though has become a money factory and we are so into the NVQ mentality now that only "qualifications" in woodturning or the like are deemed productive.

It's a measure of how far down the gurgler our society has become that the thinkers get no look in. Can you imagine how many Mills and Voltaires and Burkes there would have been with the attitude that someone in a more esoteric field of study is simply non-productive?

That's the mentality which produces no advancement in a society but turns them into automaton cogs. The number of great thinkers of the world who are remembered long after the woodturners are all dead, people living in garrets but making their mark on the world is dotted through history.

I don't measure productivity only in terms of pounds and pence.

However, that is not to say that she did it right - in history, most people secured a sponsor of some kind and you're right about asking where the father is.

You're also right in your underlying assumption that this young lady came over to sponge off the state.

Where I disagree is that she had nothing to show for it. What about R&D which costs millions and produces nothing more than that they have eliminated variables which goes into the literature and the next researchers narrow the search for a vaccine to save mankind or whatever?

Or a teacher - how is he/she productive? It's all words, words, words. Or a consultant?

What we really have here today is a society inimical to the finer things, the higher things and we are forced into non-thinking pragmatism. It is now unfashionable to see anything but producing goods or sitting on quangos as productive, a very bourgeois attitude.

Frankly, she was out of her time and out of her country. If a bright Brit had gone the other way, to France and had shown talent, the halls of learning would have feted her - they have a different attitude to talent over there.

Don't get me wrong that she needed to have taken care of money and as you say - where was the father? She might even have taken what the state said about us all being Europeans now to heart and actually believed it.

My beef is that there is no place in our yahoo society today for talent, for the liberal arts and for learning, except when tied to some state determined outcome.

Yes, she did it the wrong way but it's probably not quite as straightforward as all that.

Mike said...

MTG said...

Only the most heartless nature would unthinkingly heap derision over the corpses of a dead Mother and her baby.

Mike said...

so a.n.other woman murders her child and then kills herself. a consequence of me, you the state? no she got pregnant, she killed her child and she killed herself.

the facts are that many people who are not fit to take responsibility for a dog are supported and encouraged by 'the system' in reproducing, making false legal claims and being financially supported.

like cancer cut them out.

Anonymous said...

Mike @ 11:06

Blending a perpetual supply of tasteful jokes with your behind screen machismo of Gene Chunt, (or whatever that character name may be), must have 'ladies' drooling.

Anonymous said...

sympathy for ... marked resentment about the number of people demanding

Sympathy for demanding people!

Odd that this idea doesn't fly.

Off topic:

Another one for your John B collection

Mike said...

drooling ladies are a must in my life.

news flash.. .. .... ... . ..

Snow White has been saked, she was discovered sitting on Pinnochio's face singing 'tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies'

JuliaM said...

"That could be why she was in the UK..."


"That's the mentality which produces no advancement in a society but turns them into automaton cogs. "

Unfortunatly, we are in recession. We simply can't afford to indulge whims and massage the unemployment figures by having a raft of useless non-degrees.

Particularly when they serve to increase the UK's population figures...


Whoops! ;)

"Only the most heartless nature would unthinkingly heap derision over the corpses of a dead Mother and her baby."

Would tears for her help? Or would it merely perpetuate the idea that she's a helpless agent of unthinking fate, and not a person in control of her own destiny?

JuliaM said...

"the facts are that many people who are not fit to take responsibility for a dog are supported and encouraged by 'the system' in reproducing..."

Indeed. And we thought all we had to worry about on that score was our OWN population!

"Off topic:

Another one for your John B collection"

Oh, yes, that one was a classic. And a lot more inventive than they often are...

moriarty said...

I remember a case that the Central News wasted several minutes on some years ago now. Seems there some 'traveller' who was wailing because he'd been refused any old age pension on the grounds that he couldn't provide an NI number or proof of NI payments for any part of the 50-55 years he'd been working. The news people couldn't seem to realise just what this implied.