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"The Croft was like being a family without being family ... You are starting again. You are starting afresh and you could be who you wanted to be"

"It was a very good environment, in particular for the time when having a baby as a single parent you were very much a second class citizen and looked down on."

"Good memories, good memories, It was what I needed... I mean I dread to think what might have happened to me if there wasn't the The Croft at the time "

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About The Croft
Social History

The social and welfare conditions of the 1960s and 70s presented several obstacles for unmarried mothers. Women who found themselves pregnant during this period were faced with several choices, however many of them were unrealistic because of the social and welfare conditions that prevailed.

Women who made the decision to keep their children would not have made the decision lightly, especially in the face of social condemnation and stigma surrounding unmarried motherhood. The punitive attitudes of friends, family and the community at large would have made the option of residing in the parental home an unrealistic one.  The shame and stigma felt by the parents of the unmarried mother is well documented and in some cases led to the mother being ‘thrown-out’ of the parental home or pressured to have the child adopted. It is fair to say, if the unmarried mother was not supported by her parents, it would have been difficult for her to continue residing in the parental home had she decided to keep the child.

The option of self-support would also have been problematic for single mothers. Many mothers would have found themselves without the support of the child’s father and for the early part of the 1960s welfare assistance for single mothers was restricted to provisions under the National Assistance Act (1948). Under this statute, only single women who had sufficient national insurance contributions were only liable for support and then purely at subsistence rates. Thus for the early part of the 1960s, only minimal benefits were available for single mothers and these took little account of the responsibilities that single women might have for dependents.

The introduction of Supplementary Benefits in 1966 was sharply distinguished from National Insurance benefits (Unemployment, Sickness and Invalidity Benefits) by the basis of entitlement, which in the case of Supplementary Benefits was the claimant’s need assessed by a means test, but for National Insurance was the claimant’s contribution record. The means test in assessing entitlement to Supplementary Benefits provided a more realistic level of entitlement, especially for mothers who had been largely economically inactive.  The Supplementary Benefits act generated a greater sense of entitlement, partly because eligibility was assessed against fixed national scales, but also because single parents were eligible for the more generous long-term rates. Further, the additional weekly payments or lump sum grants were appropriate to cover the cost of large items such as cots and prams. However, its scope, operating principles and generosity varied enormously.  Although Supplementary Benefits went someway in providing welfare assistance to single mothers, it did not tackle the problem of housing.

The option of self-support became more realistic with the introduction of Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, which made housing provisions for those judged to be unintentionally homeless or threatened with homelessness, with a local connection, and in priority need. These provisions would have assisted those mothers who were threatened with homelessness by their families, if they chose to keep the child. However, although mothers and children were categorised as a ‘priority’, local authorities had a lot of scope for discretion in terms of the way they interpreted their duties received no additional resources. Thus, provisions under this statute may have varied by local authority.

Alternative options to self-support may have been to marry the father, although not realistic if the father had deserted the mother; marry another man willing to accept the child or to offer the child for fostering or adoption.

Dr Jatinder Sandhu
March 2013