By a(nother) Northern Correspondent
By coincidence, my wife was a probation officer in Clydebank years ago (late Sixties/early Seventies) and says it was a very well run town. The children’s department was particularly good and the lady who ran it had her office walls covered with pictures of “her” children who had been in the council’s care , graduating from university, getting married and so on. The councillors too were very conscientious, especially the communists who included the famous Jimmy Reid.
Of course, the guts was kicked out of the place by the closure of the shipyard and the councillors helped to organised the sit in and other demonstrations. They even called out the council workers on strike, including my wife, who told Jimmy Reid she didn’t do that sort of thing. “You will this time” he said. “Yes boss” said she. “Don’t you dare call me boss!” said Reid.
By another coincidence, Derby is my home town and I have the misfortune to share it with the likes of Philpott. Of course, if he had been made to work each day – even digging holes and filling them in again – he would have had less time and energy for his appalling lifestyle.
Since the Sixties, the production of bastard children has been a career option for women of low attainments. They automatically get a house or flat and the state is like a complaisant husband to them, winking at successive “baby fathers”. With as many children as the Philpott menage, the income can be large indeed. A local councillor told me that the total for the family (2 women , 17 children) was over £50,000 per year. He initially suspected that the fire had been a ploy which went wrong to get themselves a larger council house.
Back in the Sixties, I was working in a small family business and noted two things in that time of full employment. There was a hard core of men who just were not going to work. Some had maybe got badly shaken up in the war. The Labour Exchange (now called the Jobcentre) used to send them round. They had to be “genuinely seeking work” to qualify for benefit. I was very young and would interview them to find out what sort of work they had done and whether they might be suitable. “Just sign the bloody card, Mister” most would say. They were not interested in work but could go back and claim benefit if I did that. So I told the Labour Exchange to stop sending them.
A girl in our office got pregnant. The directors were kindly men and did not dismiss her, as many employers then would have done. In larger offices, it was usual policy because the mothers of girls working there did not want their daughters associating with “that sort”. However, the directors did ask whether the young man was going to live up to his responsibilities and marry her. “Oh No” she said, “I get an extra £10 a week as a single mother”. In those day’s a basic workman’s wage was around £11-15 per week). The Labour politician, Roy Jenkins, called this “the civilised society”.
It is very likely that Philpott’s lady friends are the daughters or granddaughters of such women. They are frequently grandmothers in their thirties. Later I had the job of trying to employ the offspring of these arrangements. They were often quite pleasant young men but had no stability in their lives. When they had a week’s wages in their pockets, we would often not see them until they had spent it all. The best thing we ever did was to switch to monthly payment. They had never had to think that far ahead in their lives before. The school system had left most of them illiterate and innumerate – and at enormous expense too.