11 December 2006

The price of shame

I am intrigued by the government’s idea to “name and shame” absent fathers who do not pay maintenance for their children. This apparently amounts to coming down “like a ton of bricks" on negligent payers, according a spokesman for the Department for Cliches. Given the singular inability of the same people to collect £3.5bn of maintenance payments, I don’t expect absent father across the land to be scouring the skies for falling masonry anytime soon.


Presumably such a page of “deadbeat dads” would be buried somewhere within the Department For Work and Pensions’ website. This should hold no fear for anyone who has ever actually tried to use the DWP website, unless the government is planning to bid for keyword sponsorship on search engines such as Google or Yahoo! in order to really get the shame levels rising.

This rather flaky sounding measure is hot on the heels of “naming and shaming” speed camera offenders that was announced earlier this year, and surely represents a tacit admission of defeat. I’m also not sure what the whole scheme says about us as a nation: presumably the government thinks we will all be logging on to see which of our neighbours is behind in his child maintenance payments because we’re all so mean-minded, suspicious and judgemental.

Coming soon, websites “naming and shaming” everyone who stands on the right in the London Underground; people who mix their recycling; and people who blow their noses just a little too vigorously in the cinema. Brought to you by the newly-created Department of Naming and Shaming.

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