Everywhere you look there are claims of specific groups who will feel the impact of government cuts disproportionately, whether it be the poor, the squeezed-middle, the young, the old, the students, the women, the families, the single people, the couples, the out-of-work, the in-work, the public sector workers, the front line staff, the city dwellers, the SAHMs, the bread-winners, the tenants, the home-owners, the cared for or the carers. Every group claims that the cuts are unfair and that no one listens. And so I thought I'd jump on the band wagon. Why not? I can match all your points and add a few more on top. I can claim that young mums have the most important needs, WE are the most vulnerable, WE need the help, OUR problems will cost the most if you dare to ignore us. Maybe this is what you want me to say. Except that this doesn't quite sit right with me. I'm sorry to ruin my own case (especially when I was doing so well) but not all young mums are helpless. Not all young mums require intensive support to 'turn their lives around'. Not all young mums will cost you £197,000 in social care, criminal justice system, benefit costs etc if left unsupported. Not all young mums require parenting classes to ensure their children don't repeat the same vicious cycle*.
 *please stick with me here! 

Rates and numbers of teenage births have gone down in the UK. There is a growing trend of postponing parenthood, with middle class and highly educated women increasingly delaying fertility until much older, or remaining childless, while younger parenthood has tended to persist more strongly for working class or less educated women. The result of this is an increasing divergence between the fertility patterns of women from different social back backgrounds, and a shift in what is considered normal, rational, or acceptable. This cultural divergence in values has resulted in those who enter parenthood early, being considered to be 'socially excluded' (regardless of whether they are) and a problem, and, with that, inherent needs to be 're-engaged' (meaning into work) and fixed, while mainstream services cater for the 'norm', that is, staying in school till 18, expecting years of further study before embarking on a career, gaps years, internships, yardy yardy yar! It's all about choices and opportunities and finding your way, with marriage and babies saved for at least your thirties when you're hoping you've got everything in place by then.

Anyone who doesn't fit into this model (which sometimes masquerades as 'feminism') is....kinda an 'issue'. And a confusing one at that. Why wouldn't you want to have these opportunities? The only explanation must be 'low aspiration', Jeeze women, we give you everything you need to behave like a man and yet you STILL go and mess up!  And so the Teen Parents, the Socially Excluded, the Vulnerable were given Specialist Services (because you're kind like that!). Teen mums were given special schools to go to, special courses (which they could sneak parenting classes into), special midwives, special health visitors, special baby groups, special targets (to be in education or work-heaven forbid a mum should just be a mum for a while) because they are SO different (oh, and older mums don't always like mixing!). And then they could be ignored because they were being 'looked after', and the world could carry on with it's capitalist masculine values regardless. Everyone was happy. And therein the problem lies. You carried on regardless. It was no longer a problem that 'regular' health visitors discriminated against teen parents, or schools STILL asked pregnant students to leave, or colleges/universities weren't set up to provide suitable childcare, or older mums at baby groups tut loudly when the teen mum walks in. Meanwhile young mums became reliant on 'specialist services' because they were the ONLY ones who listened, and understood, and supported them. Younger mums were frequently employed by these specialist services because they actually understood what it was like, they had experienced first hand the barriers that other services put up, the difficulty in getting others to listen, and they genuinely wanted to make a difference and support other young mums (even if it meant reporting on a few over-simplified targets at the end of each month!). Basically, actively excluding or ignoring the needs of young mums has created the reason that young mums now need specialist support, and NOW you want to just take it all away, in one quick blink-and-you'll-miss-it swoop.

And so what next? You think mainstream services will pick up the tab? Really? Or the Big Society? Have you HEARD them rant about teen mums? These are the people setting up their own schools to get their kids AWAY from teen mums! Now you expect young mums to just 'fit in' with whats out there after singling them out and hanging them out to dry?  Ok...I think we may have a few problems here...

According to UK models, 10% of females living in areas of average employment, and in families of average incomes, would become teenage parents. To some people that will sound huge. Many services have no idea if they are addressing their needs, they don't know who they are or what their needs are. And that is before they even start to try and take them into account. You see, you may not like it, but teenage mums are everywhere. They ARE the poor, the squeezed-middle, the young, the old, the students, the women, the families, the single people, the couples, the out-of-work, the in-work, the public sector workers, the front line staff, the city dwellers, the SAHMs, the bread-winners, the tenants, the home-owners, the cared for and the carers. So at some point people are gonna have to stop ignoring them and start listening.....

Here's some starters:
1.Young mums do not like being judged - do not make assumptions about them or treat them like they are 'paying for their mistakes'. Accept it and get over it
2. Find out what the barriers are and try and get them removed. Sometimes its quite simple....its just that no one wants to  do it....
3. Timing is not set in stone - change timetables if necessarily, let young mums catch up on school work at home, allow young parents time to decide what is right for them and their family. Don't just assume that they can just fit in with your timetable.

However, these suggestions also require a complete change in attitudes, and right now, it seems we're a long way off.....

And so therefore....these cuts are gonna hurt - and yes they may well hurt younger parents much more than your campaign group - But if you can write a blog post better than this I may reconsider.....