When I heard Health secretary Alan Johnson announce the Government's proposal to pay expectant mothers a one-off, no-strings-attached payment of £200 from their 29th week of pregnancy, supposedly to encourage them to eat well, I thought it was such a silly idea that I didn't even think to blog about it. However, I see that Wat Tyler reckons the "Health in Pregnancy Grant" is really an attempt to get teenage mothers onto welfare:
As you will know, we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe. Every year, some 80,000 under-18 year olds conceive, of whom somewhat over half go through to maternity. And the ones that do are overwhelmingly from the lowest socio-economic groups. They are four times more likely to get pregnant than the highest groups, and only around half as likely to have an abortion if they do. Which means well over half of teenage mothers are in the bottom third of society.Of course, such theories might be easier to dismiss if it wasn't for the fact that one in three households have already been made dependent on the state for at least half their income as a result of the sweeping changes made to pensions, taxes, and benefits by Gordon Brown over the last decade. Just as I have suggested previously, Mr Tyler also believes there is much we could learn from America, where President Clinton's 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act helped reduce the number of families receiving cash benefits from the state from a record 5.1 million families to just 1.9 million.
Now once those girls have their child, they cop a load of state welfare: indeed, in some parts of Britain it's a major career option. But before then, it's rather more difficult. Because of their youth, they don't qualify for the same level of welfare as say a pregnant 25 year old.
So what Al is really doing here is to extend state welfare to some very young girls who in all probability are currently wholly dependent on their own parents. At a cost of about £140m pa (700,000 births pa times £200 equals £140m pa) he aims to change that and make them dependent on the state.