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Family Law

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19 OCT 2011

Penny Booth: Desperate times for families and the elderly

Penny BoothIn the last week two stories caught my attention. Both concerned families in different ways and both will affect family life.

The first new story is that of the increase in unemployment and the huge unemployment rates among the youth of the UK in particular - the highest proportion for some considerable time. This is not good for the economy but neither is it good for families. Unemployment affects families by reducing their ability to be consumers of the ordinary necessities of life, and removing possibilities of their purchase of luxury items. We can live without luxuries, but the producers and sellers of them cannot, and if there is no money around, then there will be little to stimulate the economy. People not actually officially working will not be paying into the tax and welfare system, either.

Unemployment further affects families by risking loss of pride and ability to manage life, and by diminishing people's faith in themselves as net contributors and taking part in community life, made worse by failure to find new employment which marks them out as ‘failures'. Welfare benefits cost the state enormous amounts of money and there are fewer taxpayers paying into the state's coffers to cover that cost. Family pressures result and are linked to higher incidence of family breakdown with higher divorce and separation rates - and that costs us all. Dignity and respect can go out the door when unemployment arrives.

The second news item that was striking over the last week was that of the report on NHS care of the elderly. One in five NHS hospitals seems now to be failing the elderly so badly they are actually breaking the law. This is astonishing. The report can hardly be a huge surprise in the wake of news items on failures of care homes for the elderly and the disabled this year and last. Mentioning no specific names because readers can look them up on the web, and not mentioning them here avoids giving the editor a headache. The closure of care homes for the vulnerable and the elderly, and the lack of care in the caring professions is both sad and immensely worrying. We already have problems in making appropriate provision for the elderly in society and now we lack even the most basic care for all when people are at their most vulnerable.

Families are being squeezed: money problems, the threat of unemployment among the adults in families, youngsters without the prospect of regular employment, diminishing integrity in caring and pressures on health services all add to the pressure on families.

These affect family life. It's going to get worse in the long run unless we look at these issues now. It's obvious, really.

Penny sets the questions for Family Law journalCPD, a new way to gain CPD points by answering multiple choice questions based on the content of the journal.

She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law. Click here to follow Penny Booth on Twitter.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.

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