One of London's councils is planning to implement some new rules on fostering. Redbridge council will be voting on a new smoking policy next week, the intention is to ban smokers from fostering children. The goal, it is said, is to limit children's exposure to passive second-hand smoke. The director of tobacco studies at Cancer Research, Professor Robert West, has condoned the ban.
Given my recent predilection for spoof news articles, I just need to clarify - this is not a spoof article.
Before I continue, let me at least state that I think smoking in enclosed areas (i.e. your house) around children is inherently selfish, and worthy of anger, finger pointing, maybe even a little name-calling and (dare I say it) eyebrow-raising. But for crying out loud, what will it be next?
My issue with this proposal is this. Sure, it is commonly accepted that second-hand exposure to smoke has a detrimental effect on health. But they are being bizarrely narrow minded here, in a way that is pretty much barefaced discrimination, and certainly inconsistent. If they are going through with this, they need to be consistent.
In case the council are short of ideas, I'll provide them with a few.
People who eat fast food, ready meals, processed meat, frozen vegetables, bagged salad, juice "from concentrate", sweets, or anything that isn't given a flippin' five star health rating should also be banned from fostering. Clearly these scumbags will adversely affect the health of their children in the long run. Just as second-hand smoke can adversely affect children's health, so will a bad diet. In fact, a bad diet in the home could arguably be worse, as it could set in stone bad dietary habits that could last a lifetime.
What else is linked to cancer? Diet drinks, anti-perspirant, too much sunshine, smoked fish, EastEnders, all sorts. Surely anyone who encourages the use or enjoyment of these should also be banned?
What about people who drink (and would allow foster children to drink) Diet Coke, surely they should be banned, as the children will be more likely to also drink Diet Coke, and therefore be t a higher risk of cancer, or obesity for that matter, which can also lead to heart problems.
What about carpets? They can be terribly unhealthy if they are not cleaned, with a build up of dust, germs and dead skin, and have sometimes been linked (or so I have read) with asthma. So why not ban people from fostering if they have carpets in their home, just to be sure?
I'm just going to indulge in a bit of flippant drivel here. Health is not the only issue. The council shouldn't just be concerned with physical health, but also emotional and mental development. Right?
People who watch EastEnders, Big Brother, Hole In The Wall or any other bottom-of-the-barrel television should also be banned from fostering. Clearly these uncouth philistines should be kept as far away from children as possible. I mean, we can't have any children turning into uncultured, crass little uncivilised brats can we?
People who don't have respectable literary interests should certainly not be allowed to foster youngsters. If their reading material includes celebrity trash, football magazines, or rock star biographies then they should be immediately ruled out. We need to make sure that all fostered children will develop literary skills that the nation is proud of.
I could continue on and on, but seriously now, I'll get back on track. The article says that smoking rights groups have labelled the council "health fascists". I think fascist is too nice, it leaves room for the possibility of the accused embracing their ideology with intelligence or common sense, which this council clearly haven't. If there is one thing this breathtaking display of ineptitude has taught us, it is that Redbridge council are misguided and displaying the brainpower of amoebas.
In fact, the only thing this council have done is commit intellectual suicide and waste taxpayers' money. Oh, and insult the human race. Nearly forgot that one. Why isn't insulting the human race through brainless initiatives seen as a crime against humanity?
What they should really do is produce a thirty-seven page check-list with all sorts of arbitrary, thoughtless, pointless criteria. If any aspiring foster parent fails any one of the criteria they should not be allowed to foster.
Forget cancer and heart disease, they are relatively rare, whereas stunted emotional, intellectual development caused my lax parenting, such as watching a little bit too much TV, or failing to encourage the reading of Charles Dickens is far more widespread.
I mean, what they really need to do is ban anyone who has any failing of any sort, as this could quite possibly affect the fostered child in an adverse way. Makes total sense.
Watch an unbalanced amount of TV? Banned. Eat bagged salad? Banned. Interested in celebrity culture? Banned. Don't look after your teeth properly? Banned. Wear low-cut tops? Banned. Socks with sandals? Banned. Crack open the occasional beer after work? Banned. Dirty nails? Banned. Listen to pop music? Banned. Appreciate Amy Winehouse's music? Banned. Bad dress sense? Banned. Support a crappy football club like Norwich? Banned. Read The Sun? Banned.
Hell, why stop here? We want children to grow up with a passionate care for the environment, so if you don't recycle to an acceptable level, leave your TV on standby instead of turning it off, or waste water by over-filling the kettle, then you should not be allowed to foster children.
You know what really sucks about all this? While all this is going on, London is over two thousand carers short. So as Redbridge council scratch around picking fleas of each others' backs, over two thousand children in need of foster care are sitting around waiting. I don't know what they do while they "wait", but I imagine they would be rather be fostered than wait to be fostered. Or am I being dumb here?
I sincerely hope the council see sense and vote down the proposal. I hope I see human rights groups speaking out this week. I hope the Guardian speaks out in all its liberal glory. If they push through the proposal, it will only be downhill.
Or am I the only one bothered by all this? If so then I'll shut up. But let me finish with a short sketch. Mr and Mrs Jones are finding out if they will be able to foster a child.
"Well, Mr and Mrs Jones. Your test results are back, and you have passed them with flying colours. You are a nice, cultured couple who own a lovely home that would be perfect for fostering one of our children.
You are well-rounded individuals in your tastes, interests and style, striking that perfect balance between enjoying a little bit of television, but not too much, and indulging in cultured reading and cross-wording.
This would nurture the fostered child's intelligence and interests in just the way we like.
You eat the perfect healthy, organic, environment-preserving diet. Meaning the fostered child would develop health dietary habits, and lower their chances of diet-related health problems later on in life.
Nothing in your household is remotely carcinogenic, and your appearance is immaculate. Your clothes are ironed, your hair combed, your temperament is calm and endearing.
Your floors are laminate, dust free and beautifully cleaned. Your home is painted in lovely neutral colours, a perfect gentle environment for children.
I'm afraid to say that we are going to have to turn you down.
Firstly, Mrs Jones, I can see the tiniest bit of skank, what is it?, muesli perhaps?, stuck in your teeth. Lax dental care can lead to fillings, Mrs Jones. If you fail to care for your teeth, then anyone in your care could also enter into similar negligence, resulting in fillings and toothache. We can't tolerate this possibility.
Secondly, Mr Jones, the Thought Police told me that you contemplated a MacDonald's on the way home yesterday. This will not do at all. Merely considering a fast food burger means that we cannot trust you with one of our children. If you indulge, then they may develop an insatiable appetite for fast food, leading to health problems and a lower quality of life.
And finally, Mr Jones, we've been told that you enjoy a quiet solitary cigar every Christmas on the veranda. And that cannot, and will not, be tolerated by myself, or any of my colleagues, or the Thought Police.
Goodbye Mr and Mrs Jones."