The Children of the Underclass or "The Dustbin Kids"

In previous articles I wrote of the abuse of children brought about by a hostile environment and ignorance which over time translated into the use and abuse of children throughout the industrial era.

There is now a third stage in history - that with social problems as the factor that impacts the children, fuelled by the breakdown of family values, poverty, crime, drugs and alcohol; and an alarming increase in diseases once thought to be overcome such as Tuberculosis (TB) and meningitis.

 Figures released by the British National Statistics Office in March, 2000, reveal that 25% of families have a single-parent as the head of the household compared to just 8% in 1971; that 23 % of children now live in a lone-parent household compared to 8% in 1972 and there are currently about 8000 children born annually to mothers under 16 years of age.

The statistics make grim reading - the crime rate in the UK is now twice that in the USA; two of every five births in the UK are born to unwed parents and of these parents, over half are unskilled and unemployed. Poverty blights the lives of some 4.6 million Scottish children - more than one in three - and is the highest rate in the European Union.

 If that is not enough the Mental Health Foundation calculates that 20 percent of children and young people in the UK are experiencing psychological problems. The "children of the underclass " or " the dustbin kids " as they have been called, are not just those of people at the margin of society who live cheek by jowl amongst the violent criminals in the big city ghettoes.

There are, too, the children of parents who mean well but cannot cope - perhaps caught by the poverty trap; and those of parents who are unable or unwilling to contribute to their neighbourhood who are locked into an existence barely maintained by social security payments.

 Worse, in my view, is the fact that children are growing up and themselves becoming parents of another generation who may know only social deprivation and exclusion.

The term "dustbin children" is both offensive and apt for amonrosieeliz.jpg (73440 bytes)gst them are the rejected children, the disabled, the fractious, those with learning difficulties - all those that require a very special kind of help and are labelled "difficult". Sadly society lets down this especially vulnerable group of children, and even when providing residential homes for them, the children still become the victims of abuse.

A direct result of the social problems is that some children are growing up to be idle, unthinking and anti-social; who are accustomed to seeing crime and violence as everyday events and integral to their life. The media does little to assist, seeming to over emphasise and almost glorify the darker side of life, with newscasters trying to be `investigative` reporters by asking those on the scene the most obvious and stupid questions, thus drawing out the issue unnecessarily. The quality of television programmes is frankly abysmal and dumbed down to such an extent that children take it in as the norm.

 Whatever happened to  to parents talking to (not down) to children and participating in leisure activities with them ?  Are we all becoming victims of a `Nanny` government  dedicated to media spin and perpetuation of their image - and to hell with doing anything about the real issues that impact the populace ? What moron decided to introduce formal education to children between 1 and 3 years of age ? Have these air heads ever been parents themselves ? Have they ever experienced the delight of playing and talking to a very young child, of hesitatingly letting go of a tiny hand as the first solo steps are taken ? These politically correct twerps should first experience parenthood and in any event keep their holier than thou, all knowing, attitudes and opinions to themselves. Let the children grow up naturally in a loving and caring environment and damn forever this political correctness gone mad. If they must interfere then do so where there is a real need.

 The statistics tell us that there is increasing trend away from marriage and this correlates with a gap in the development of children from single-parent households compared to those of a two parent, stable relationships. Disturbingly, the most serious forms of child abuse are overwhelmingly inflicted by co-habiting boyfriends and stepfathers.

Whatever the professed concern of government, the TV sound bites by Ministers, and the millions of pounds of funding poured into local government bureaucracy, the reality is that the charitable institutions continue to play a vital part providing on the ground, pragmatic help.

 In Scotland, two of the leaders in this work are The Aberlour Trust, founded by the Reverand Canon Jupp, and The Quarrier Homes, founded by William Quarrier in the 19th century. Two other worthies who deserve a much wider recognition than history affords them. are the Rev. Thomas Guthrie, founder of the Ragged Schools in Edinburgh; and, Dr. William Buchan whose publications on self-medical care transformed health and hygiene standards.

Next : The Rev Jupp and the Aberlour Trust

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