Large families seem to have been hitting the news stands often lately, but not in a good way.
While criticising large families is nothing new for the media, the last few weeks seem to have produced a considerable increase in anti-large-family stories.
First we had single-mum-of-eleven Heather Frost, reported as saying, F*** the lot of them‚ towards those who disagreed with her local authority plans to rehome her family, despite her never having worked.
Then Maggie and Gavin Flisher hit the headlines after moving into a four-bedroomed home with their six children. Again neither work and again it was the local authority who had re-housed them.
Then we had reports of another non-working family-of-12 whose local authority was arranging to knock together two homes to make one larger one to accommodate them. Father Tom Fisk was reported as saying, 'I can have fifty kids if I want to.'
A few days later came the story of mother-of-nine Cheryl Prudham who worked part-time, as did her husband, with the headline describing her demands for a bigger house for her family.
Within the last couple of days we heard about father-of-nine Lee Miller who, apart from nine months, has never worked during his adult life, and is reported as demanding a larger home for his family and pet python. A second article then reported him as saying he would go to London and rob rich people‚ if his benefits were stopped.
With all the articles clearly written with the intention of inducing anger and fury amongst the [Daily Mail] readers, and not one single positive feature among them, is it any wonder that large families are usually thought of with such negativity?
But why is there such a media attack on large families?
Statistics from the ONS show that in 2012 only 14, and as for those with 10 or more children, they're pretty much insignificant, I imagine. (I am still trying to find official figures on these family sizes).
Last December the Daily Mail (again) published an article with the flame-fanning headline: 200 families claiming housing benefit have 10 or more children as taxpayers face £150 million bill for "benefit broods" . Wow! That is a lot of money that the taxpayers are stumping up. The problem is that according to the DWP's recent statistics from May 2013, the total number of people claiming housing benefit is 5.07 million.
5.07 million people claim housing benefit yet the vitriol-spouting finger of accusation points squarely to the 200 of them with 10 or more children.
The only people who know what happened in the interviews above are the families and reporters involved. Who knows the context in which anything was said, and the editing and creative license undertaken in order to portray a story of a certain angle? We ought to remain sceptical when we see and read anything in the media, and remember how even the most innocent and innocuous of comments can be misreported.
I am not saying that there are no large families who take advantage of the system. I am sure there are. But we know that there are millions more smaller families and single people who are a far greater burden. To blame the ills of the country and a £150 million bill on 200 families out of 5.07 million is nothing but a witch hunt.
Larger Family Life has been established for five years, and during that time I have spoken with hundreds of families all over the world. We know that an extremely high majority are hard-working, respectful and considerate, just like most other people in the world.
Devising stories created to generate anger and resentment towards a section of the population who, for the most part, are trying their hardest to support their families and to live honestly, with integrity and self-respect, is nothing short of persecution.
The negative, enraging stories written to infuriate and enrage are often wide off the mark, written not for the benefit of any of their subjects no matter who they may be, but for the accounts department of the publication or programme. Yet sadly, the majority who go about their daily lives just like anybody else, albeit with a child or two (or three or four) more, find themselves under increasing prejudice and animosity as a result of a handful of stories written to rankle and outrage.
Will large families ever get a break, or are they to put up with this undeserved, oft-assumed stereotype forever? Will strangers continue to judge and seethe when they pass large families by, despite not knowing their own real stories and circumstances? Why is there such negativity in the media towards large families in the first place, and what do you think about it all?
Larger Family Life was created to offer an insight on life in a large family and to promote and encourage family life. Tania and her husband Michael currently have 12 children ranging from 20 years down to their latest addition born in November 2012. Their 13th child is due in early 2014.
Blogs at: Larger Family Life
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