Belfast Telegraph

Sharon Owens: Who's to blame for the mess we are in? Mum's the word

So, let me get this right. Bankers lent too much money to borrowers while paying themselves £7bn-a-year in bonuses. And when it all went pear-shaped, the bankers got a handy bail-out from the Government.

The Government also signed up to costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that the electorate didn't want, and still doesn't understand.

And, finally, that same Government approved the high rents that are currently paid to private landlords because there isn't enough social housing to go round. It all adds up to quite a lot of debt, doesn't it?

And who's to blame for all this nasty debt? Yes, that's right: mums are responsible for it. Well, they must be, for mums are the ones being punished.

Single mums and divorced mums and posh stay-at-home mums will be feeling the pinch in the coming years. Single and divorced mums will have to move into cheaper accommodation as housing benefit is capped.

Posh mums will lose their child benefit, or school uniform money, as some like to call it. Kids of all classes won't be getting a PlayStation 3, a Wii, an Xbox 360 or a Nintendo DS for Christmas this year. I have no idea what the aforementioned things are, but I'm assuming they are types of computer games, or dust-catchers, as I like to call them.

So there you have it, folks.

The Oxbridge-educated boffins in Downing Street have done their sums and they've decided that, if British children went back to playing with conkers and skipping ropes, we'd all be saved from penury.

Presumably if women had fewer kids in the first place, it'd be even better. Perhaps they could resurrect those posters declaring Your Country Needs You. They could print thousands more saying Your Country Needs You To Keep Your Knees Together.

I'm sorry, but I'm thoroughly disappointed by this latest development. So what if a handful of single mums are thrifty enough to squeeze a few computer games out of their benefit allowance?

It's a drop in the bucket compared to the banking bail-out and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, to be fair to the 4.8m families on benefits today, where are they supposed to find work?

Pretty single mum Kelly Marshall (32) gets £29,000-a-year in housing benefits and income support. She's never worked a day in her life, according to the media. (I wouldn't say looking after five young children was exactly easy, mind you.)

But Kelly would need to be working full-time as, say, a senior systems analyst to earn £29,000-a-year and she'd need to pay one heck of a child-minder out of it, too.

By my reckoning, a child-minder willing to look after five young children would expect to be paid around £29,000-a-year. Which means Kelly would still need to claim £29,000 in benefits to feed and house her children.

And, actually, she'd be worse off, considering her initial salary would be taxed, so she'd need to dip into her top-up benefits just to pay the child-minder. Oh dear, I'm getting a headache just thinking about it. Maybe the Government should ask bankers like Fred 'The Shred' Goodwin to start paying back the money they got? Maybe the Government should admit the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a mistake, and let the soldiers come home? Maybe they should build more social housing so that they don't have to pay private landlords?

Maybe the Government should slap a big tax on imports so that the British manufacturing sector could be revived? The only thing that I can find in my house with a 'made in Britain' label on it is, ironically, my daughter's school blazer.

I really have no idea how the Con-Lib Budget is going to pan out. The bankers still seem to be getting away with it.

The war in Afghanistan trundles on, with the threat of terrorism in Britain at 'severe'. The very idea of having a baby in the near future is distinctly unappealing.

It may only be a matter of time before single and divorced mums have to wear a neon armband or some other badge of shame. That Kelly Marshall should watch her back. Posh mums will have to start shopping in Primark and Asda. Buy-to-let landlords must be sweating cobs. For the bankers, however, it's business as usual.

By the way, I hear that carers (mostly middle-aged women) save the Government £87bn-a-year. They won't mention that in the Budget, will they?

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