Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to manipulate the 'news' to your advantage

Two 'news' stories today demonstrate nicely how government these days tries to persuade Joe Public around to their way of thinking.

First we had the Ministry of Justice, which released figures showing the divorce 'hot spots' around the country. The figures don't actually tell us much at all, as they refer to the number of divorce petitions issued in various county courts, without telling us anything about the number of people living in the 'catchment area' of each court (not to mention variations where petitions are issued in 'foreign' courts, because those courts are more efficient). Not deterred by this little detail, the MoJ told us that:
"The statistics have been published as the government takes steps to ensure that couples who make the decision to separate give consideration to using mediation.

Mediation is a quicker, simpler and more effective way of agreeing how they divide their assets or make arrangements for their children, which avoids the often divisive effect of the courtroom."
And Family Justice Minister Lord McNally jumped on the bandwagon with this:
"All too often I hear stories of families going through expensive and traumatic court hearings but we know that when working out how to split assets and arrange time with the children, mediation is a far simpler and cheaper approach for everyone and leads to better outcomes.

"That is why we are changing the law so that all couples seeking a court order about child contact or a financial matter must attend a mediation information assessment meeting first, to find out about mediation and consider whether it is suitable for them."
We are then treated to various figures, telling us how expensive contested court proceedings are, and how much our wonderful Government is spending on mediation. What we are not told, of course, is how much the Government is going to save by abolishing legal aid for most family matters from the first of April. Still, that doesn't matter, because mediation will be the magical panacea that will replace proper legal representation with legal aid, won't it?

Moving on, the second 'news' story was released by the Department for Work and Pensions, which happily announced that:
"Figures released today show the vast majority of parents who use the Child Support Agency (CSA) are now paying for their children."
Minister for Child Maintenance Steve Webb chipped in with:
"These figures show we now live in a society where parental financial responsibility after separation is just considered the norm by people.

"A third of children now live in separated families and we know that the overwhelming majority of parents want to do what’s right by their kids - even if they’re no longer with the other parent.

"Wherever possible we want parents to work together for the sake of their children - not against one another. Supporting your children after a break up is just what most parents do these days.

"Recent You Gov research shows 9 in 10 people believe children are better off when both parents work together to agree child support between themselves after they break up. And the evidence backs that up."
It gives you a warm feeling inside, doesn't it? Clearly, this government knows what's best when it comes to child maintenance, and no doubt its forthcoming reforms will make everything rosy.

Oh, wait - what about those parents with care (I'll use that term) who can't get the other parent to agree to pay anything? Ah, things won't be quite so rosy for them, will they? In future, they will have to pay for a service that was previously free.

Still, we won't let little details like that distract from the good news, will we?

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