As 2012 draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the parenting stories that made the headlines. And what a rum bunch they were, says Michael Donlevy, as we take you through a year of highs and lows…
Families face fall in incomes
You could probably have predicted this yourself from the fluff in your pockets where money used to be, but the Family & Parenting Institute published research that predicted 500,000 more children will fall into poverty in the UK by 2015. This is because income for households with children is expected to fall by 4.2 per cent over the same period. Happy New flipping Year.
Record number of kids taken into care
A whopping 903 children were referred into care in January, according to figures revealed this month. Numbers had been rising since the notorious Baby P case in 2007, but this was a leap from 698 referrals the previous January. The main reason was neglect, rather than abuse – a startling indictment of British society, but one we can all act on.
Britain’s weather goes bananas
We love talking about the weather and, after a big freeze in February, March was a scorcher. Well, it was for most of us. There were droughts and hosepipe bans across England, while Scotland hit a record high of 23.6°C. Yet it was hard to know what to dress the kids in when they wanted to play outside: elsewhere around the UK there were 101.2mm of rain in 24 hours, winds of 71mph and 4cm of snow. Brrr!
Budget hits families where it hurts
The government looked after its own in the April budget, slashing the higher rate of income tax for the UK’s richest 300,000 households while cutting child benefits for everyone else. And while the government increased tax-free personal allowances, it lowered the higher-rate tax band by £2,125 to sting more middle-class families. On top of that, an increase in stamp duty from 5 to 7 per cent didn’t help growing families looking to move house. We bet David Cameron reverses that before he moves out of Downing Street.
Controversial attachment parenting cover on Time
‘Attachment parenting’ was such a hot topic in 2012 that Time Magazine devoted a cover story to it. The three basic tenets are breast-feeding (into toddlerhood), co-sleeping and ‘baby wearing’, in which infants are literally attached to their mothers via slings. No baby should ever be left to cry, goes the theory, but isn’t this one step short of gluing your baby to your pyjamas?
David Cameron leaves his daughter in the pub
We’re a nation of drinkers, sure, but it really doesn’t reflect well on the UK when our own Prime Minister leaves his eight-year-old in the boozer. In June Downing Street confirmed that a mix-up between Cameron and his wife Samantha, who were travelling home in different cars, meant Nancy was left in The Plough Inn in Cadsden, Buckinghamshire, ‘for around 15 minutes’. That’s enough time to drink a bottle of wine for most Brits. Cheers, Pop!
Why our kids face a shrinking planet
No, the Earth isn’t shriveling up like a soggy conker, but scientists did reveal that Arctic sea ice was defrosting at record levels – and that 70 per cent of this was of our own making. By September it was at an all-time low and measured half what it was in the 1980s. Which makes teaching kids about climate change more important than ever, unless, over the next few generations, we suddenly sprout fins.
London’s Olympics inspire a generation
Staging the world’s biggest sports bash in gridlocked London was going to be a disaster, said the doom-mongers. Yet the Olympics were a triumph for Britain and its sports stars, as the likes of Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton became poster boys and girls for the Games and established a sporting legacy beyond Lord Coe’s wildest fantasies. Suddenly, sport was cool again.
Government reveals EBaccs will replace GCSEs
There have long been calls to shake up the education system, but not, perhaps, in the way the government revealed it would. The new English Baccalaureatte will place greater emphasis on ‘traditional’ subjects such as English, maths and science from 2017. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it will also place more emphasis on exams and, teachers fear, stifle creativity. See me, Gove.
Scandal at the Beeb over Savile cover-up
The rumours were true, then. The TV presenter and broadcaster had spent decades using his fundraising for children’s charities and hospitals as a front to abuse what police now confirm is hundreds of victims – and all the while the BBC put its fingers in its ears and pretended it wasn’t happening. Worse, Auntie got her bloomers in a twist and tried to cover up the story by axing a Newsnight investigation into the allegations.
UKIP foster parents furore
In most cases, your political leaning doesn’t affect your ability to be a good parent (although it’s a relief that Hitler never had kids). So tell that to the social workers who took three ethnic children away from their UKIP-supporting foster parents this month. UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who, whatever you think of his policies, has a way with words beyond the grasp of most politicians, called it ‘a bloody outrage’. Hear hear!
A sad end to the year
As 2012 drew to a close, two separate incidents that dominated headlines around the world highlighted the battles we as humans, and families, face with mental illness. First, on 7 December nurse Jacintha Saldanha was found hanged after taking a hoax call from two Australian DJs enquiring about the Duchess of Cambridge’s health at King Edward VII’s Hospital. A week later in Connecticut, USA, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot dead his mother at their leafy suburban home, before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where she worked and he was once a pupil. He then killed 20 children – all six- or seven-year-olds – and five adults in cold blood before taking his own life. For the families affected, 2012 will no longer be ‘just another year’, and the ‘festive’ season will never be the same again. For the rest of us, who can only send our hearts out to strangers and hold them in our thoughts, it is a stark reminder to treasure those around us. Having our loved ones close really is enough to make our Christmas wishes come true.