Monday, October 16, 2006

Mums For Justice

I'm not one of the 4 million regular readers of 'Take a Break' magazine, the UK's number one true-life mag, but I do think that their 'Mum's Army' and 'Mums For Justice' campaigns are interesting.

Mums for Justice is a campaign launched recently following the changes to the CSA, which wants the government to make sure that men:

*Pay child support in full every month and on time.
*Don't get away with lying about their earnings and pretending to be unemployed to wriggle out of paying up.
*Stick to visiting arrangements organised either by family courts or with their ex-partners.

Mums' Army has been running for longer, and has 280 campaigners and 15,000 supporters. It wants 'to push the problem of anti-social behaviour higher up the political agenda and keep it there, because whatever the government says, it is a problem which is getting worse'. They want anti-social behaviour to be tackled in seven areas:

POLICING
More and better policing, with officers on the beat and local police stations who know their patch, answer the phone, react swiftly, and sympathise with the victim, not the culprit.

HUMAN RIGHTS
The balance of the law needs to come down in favour of the victim and not the yob. There is too much fuss about the yob’s human rights. What about the human rights of people to live in peace without the fear of intimidation?

EDUCATION
To encourage a culture of learning amongst the young. For the balance of the law to be in favour of the teachers, not the yobs. Youngsters have to be taught discipline and respect for others.

FAMILIES
To give support to parents who are trying to teach their children discipline and respect for others. Experienced parents can mentor and advise less experienced parents.

COMMUNITY
To re-establish traditional values in which young people are brought up to respect the vulnerable, the old and the disabled, rather than to treat them as easy victims. They should value the reciprocal support networks which create a successful neighbourhood or other community and should be shown the benefits of involvement.

OPPORTUNITY
We have a responsibility to young people. Boredom is often the cause of antisocial behaviour. More opportunities and facilities need to be created in order to stop young people from misbehaving.

CULTURE
To discourage commercial elements which encourage youngsters to bully and disrespect others - such as violent films, computer games, song lyrics, websites, and irresponsible television programmes. Then to be enforced with regulation and severe penalties for vendors who breech them.

Even if the idea behind all of this was to sell more magazines, it means that an effective way to boost sales is by running political campaigns, even though many of the potential readers don't vote and have never voted.

We need to think about why it is that people who want the government to change its policy on anti-social behaviour or child support think it is more effective to buy Take a Break magazine, join their campaign and stand for election as a Mums' Army candidate then to join the Labour Party, campaign with others in the local branch and stand for election as a Labour candidate.

In many areas it is almost inconceivable that joining the Labour Party and getting involved in your local branch would make any difference to the local area or to government policy, despite the fact that there are clearly a lot of people who this would appeal to. We might not be able to offer up to £1000 to people who send in their stories about anti-social behaviour, or advice on National Wedding Dress Day, but involving local people in making decisions about how to improve their local area and changing government policy should be our responsibility.

Take a Break magazine, Mums' Army campaign - http://www.takeabreakmagazine.co.uk/Default.aspx?Page=3

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