Provide childcare support for working parents from their child's 1st birthday

Provide childcare support for working parents from their child's 1st birthday

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Edward Morane started this petition to UK Parliament

I recently shared a stream of consciousness on Facebook - it gained some momentum and I was advised to start a petition directed at Her Majesty's Government. I believe the cost for such change would be minimal given what is already in place, and the social and economic advantages gained from empowering parents to return to work, especially mothers, would be significant. Please see the post below...

I've just processed my payment for this month's nursery fees for Freya (my 15 month-old daughter) and it got me thinking again about the governments quite recently introduced 30-hour-per-week free nursery for children between their 3rd birthday and going to school: for those of you that don't know, this is solely for children with full-time working parents (both if they are still together) and co-exists with the 15-hours-per-week free nursery all children are entitled to from their third birthday (but you don't get both - it's basically 15 hours free, then 15 more if you work). It's clear from this move that the government thinks we need to help working parents more, which is good, but I think they've got the delivery all wrong...

In my experience of parenting I think it's fair for the government to assume home care of children from birth until a year old and, in my opinion, they get that part right - there are government-funded maternity benefit/ allowance schemes for most of that period and legal protection of a mother's employment for that first year.

But then, for a two year period between the child's 1st and 3rd birthday, there is this void, where government maternity support stops entirely. What do they expect the parent who wants to return to work to do? Let's do some really basic maths - Freya's nursery costs £228 per month for one session per week. To be as optimistic as possible, let's argue that you could shop around and find this a shade cheaper, say £200 (a little over 10% lower). Let's then argue that you need to put your child in to nursery for 3 days a week in order to return to work for a full-time, 37.5 hour week (perhaps you have family/ friends who can help with free childcare for the other days) that brings us to a total cost of £600 per month for childcare fees. If you're earning £10 per hour (miles above the newly increased minimum wage of £8.21 per hour) for those 37.5 hours you will take home £1,399.65 per month (assuming zero additional reductions, so no pension, no student fees etc). Once you've then paid your nursery for the pleasure of being able to go to work, you're left with £799.65. £184 per week. £26 per day. £4.90 in your pocket for each hour of labour - all for the pleasure of working full time and having someone else raise your child.

How can the child-caring parent justify returning to work? Bear in mind that the above is fairly optimistic - you may have more than one child in that age bracket, you may need to put them in childcare for longer to work full-time, you may be earning less. Elaine and I are quite 'lucky' (I put lucky in quotations - not all of it is luck. Elaine works bloody hard!) on a number of these fronts, but not everyone is so fortunate/ has the same opportunities.

I don't believe in the Patriarchy as a universal concept to describe how our society functions, however this is obviously going to effect women's career prospects and progression far more than it will effect men's. I don't think society should 'push' mothers in to work - traditional family values certainly have their place in society: the evidence for that is clear. However if women WANT to return to work we should be doing everything to assist that, not setting up a structure that makes it impossible unless you're a monstrous earner (which, paradoxically, usually indicates a lack of return to work. Again the stats on this are clear - put simply: you earn lots, you're husband/ partner is likely to earn as much, if not more than you, the NEED to work is eliminated, opportunity to raise own children increased)

My proposal would be to scrap the 30-hours, and extend the 15-hours from the child's 3rd birthday to the child's 1st (for working parents only). Additionally I would propose tiering this dependent on work - you get 20 hours free if the caring parent(s) all qualify as working full-time, and 10 hours free from their 3rd birthday if you don't work. Perhaps a central tier of 15 hours could exist for parents qualifying as working part-time (or one full, one part).

What do we think? Parents/ aspiring parents/ non-parents? Workers/ non-workers. Employees/ employers?

 

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