Cheaper by the dozen means borough is right on big family

The two houses in Galmorgan Road that the council plan to knock through.

The two houses in Galmorgan Road that the council plan to knock through. - Credit: Archant

The plight of the Ipswich family of 12 for whom two council houses are being knocked together has provided a feeding frenzy for elements of the national press over the last week.

But looking at the situation realistically, what alternative did the borough council have to knocking two homes together like this?

It is perfectly reasonable to argue that the family should not have found themselves in this position in the first place.

I would not argue with suggestions that the parents should long ago have been given some family planning advice – however the fact is we are where we are.

There are 10 children involved in this situation and the council has to deal with the situation as it presents itself, not how we would like it to be.

So what are the alternatives? You could accommodate 10 children and two parents in a three-bedroomed house, That would put four children in each bedroom and two in with the parents.

That would be incredibly cramped, and could certainly be seen as punishing the children for the misdemeanours of their parents – and I can’t help feeling it would be in contravention of laws aimed at eliminating overcrowding.

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I’ve heard of families in this situation who have put a caravan in the garden to allow either some of the children or their parents to sleep there.

That is hardly ideal from a security point of view – and would be unlikely to enhance the neighbourhood.

Should some of the children be taken into care?

Breaking up a family should be the last possible option. We aren’t living in Victorian times – and any such move would prompt a massive uproar.

And from a purely financial point of view knocking two houses together like this is going to cost about £6,000.

One of them has been empty for some time – so such a move is bringing it back into use.

I suspect that the comparatively low cost of the conversion (a fully-fitted new kitchen starts at about £6,000 these days) means it would not cost too much to restore this to two council houses once all the children have flown the nest.

If anyone did seriously think about putting any of the children into care as an alternative, I’m sure it would cost much more than the borough’s solution.

Frankly the borough seems to have found the best possible way out of a problem that began many years ago.

It was not for the borough to be telling this family about responsible parenting as they went about creating such a huge family.

That is something society as a whole needs to look at – the health service, religious organisations, and education services included.

But on this occasion it was the borough’s responsibility to pick up the pieces of a very challenging situation – and in the cold light of day they appear to have done the right thing in this case.