Opinion: ‘Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, I am that working mum you applaud. But the whole way along, I have felt like I’m pushing against the tide,’ verdict on government childcare plans

Catherine Morris-Gretto and Oscar. Photo: Supplied Catherine Morris-Gretto and Oscar. Photo: Supplied

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
9:48 AM

It must be election time if childcare is top of the news agenda again.

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Key aspects of the scheme

Tax-Free Childcare

The scheme will open in autumn 2015 and be available to around 1.9 million working families with children under 12 by the end of its first year of operation.

New online Tax-Free Childcare accounts will be run by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), in partnership with National Savings & Investments (NS&I). The accounts will make it easier for parents and providers, involve no fees and give parents security over their money, allowing them to build up credit for use when they need it most, for example during school holidays.

The scheme will also benefit childcare providers, who will be able to receive each child’s payment from a single account under Tax-Free Childcare, rather than keep track of multiple payments relating to a single child from different bank and voucher accounts.

For the first time, self-employed parents and those working for the vast majority of employers who do not offer the existing ESC scheme will be able to access the scheme. It will also be available to those working part-time due to the low minimum earning threshold of £50 per week.

The rules will also be tailored to support entrepreneurs and those self-employed who do not at first meet the minimum earnings requirement to be eligible for the scheme in their first year.

All working families where the parents earn at least £50 per week will have access to government support with childcare costs, unless one of the parents earns over £150,000 or receives support from tax credits, Universal Credit or ESC.

Parents currently receiving childcare vouchers through ESC can continue to benefit from the scheme with their current employer should they wish to do so, but it will be closed to new entrants from autumn 2015. Workplace nurseries will be unaffected.

Universal Credit

Families in Universal Credit will be able to receive 85pc support on childcare costs, up from 70pc.

This change will see 300,000 working families getting more out of the money they earn.

The buzz statistic of the last few weeks is that, for many, paying for someone to look after your child costs more than a mortgage.

“Surely not!” the critics shout. “Where did this nonsense come from? Show us the facts to prove it.”

I can’t speak for everyone in the UK but this is certainly the case for my husband and me. At face value, childcare for our son costs over £100 a month more than our mortgage, and is about to go up.

Luckily, we are signed up to a tax-saving childcare voucher scheme at work, which brings the cost down, but still does not make me going back to paid employment the clear financial winner.

And there is so much more to the work versus children debate than politicians seem to acknowledge.

Last year, I took the difficult decision of leaving a full-time, well-paid job to spend more time with my son, who was 11 months old when I started working three days a week at the EDP. I spent months agonising over the best choice for our family. Do I go back to a busy full-time job and provide for us financially? Or do I try to find part-time work so I can spend more time with my son and keep the house running? There was a lot of guilt. Comments included “how can you let someone else bring up your child?” and “what’s the point in having a child if you go back to work?”. There were even books by child psychologists suggesting my son would grow up to be a criminal if I didn’t stay at home and look after him. I was selfish for wanting to continue a career I had spent nearly 10 years building and then irresponsible for letting a better salary go to take a part-time job.

And I was lucky enough to have the choice. There are many women out there who don’t and either have to leave their babies full-time, or cannot work at all due to the cost of childcare.

Each extra hour of work is an extra hour paid to a childminder or nursery. We just cannot win.

None of this is helped by the contradictory messages coming out of Downing Street. The government wants mothers to go out to work but has so far made this financially difficult. It bills itself as pro-family – but does not respect that staying at home to raise children is a natural and important role – and one, which according to some psychologists, could make for a better society in the future.

Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, I am that working mum you applaud. But the whole way along, I have felt like I’m pushing against the tide. And there are plenty of women much worse off than me.

Yesterday’s announcement is good news for working parents but for me, comes too late. I know this government does not really care about our issues. These plans are just another carrot on a stick leading us to the polling stations.

12 comments

  • Call me churlish and working class, but my mother stayed at home to bring us up and my wife did the same for our kids. We didn't need to live in a house with the right postcode, didn't need a car with the right registration plate sitting outside (or any car at all, usually), didn't need to take foreign holidays (or any holidays), and funnily enough managed to be quite happy. What I don't get is how the decision between working and raising your own child is "difficult". My mum would have called raising her own children a duty, as my wife still does. No real thought necessary for working class women of their generation. Spare me middle class angst while there are people around with real, tough decisions to make.

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    Henry the cat

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • Sorry that should be 4 or 5 years!

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    Sandy.L

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • Simple You cut your coat according to your cloth and don't expect the tax payer to prop you up. If you cant afford childcare cut something else out of your budget. If you want to stay at home and look after your child yourself do the same ( and add your voice to those asking for fair treatment for stay at home parents). Or don't have children at all. Quite how working class parents managed in the past must defeat modern young people. Could it be they cannot imagine living in a small house with children sharing rooms, giving up a car, having no holidays, fewer clothes, eating cheaply and not having a mobile phone contract etc? Whining about the people who look after your child getting a fair wage or expecting those who have scrimped and saved in the past to subsidise your life style Of course if Generation X had not voted for a party which flooded the country with potential benefit recipients there might be more money to spare .

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • I honestly don`t know why many women of this “ I want everything now,” generation bother to have children nowadays. They seem to be more interested in their careers, than bringing up their children. Just enjoy your children while they are young, because they grow up to quickly. So what, if you haven`t got everything. The child(ren) won`t care. All they want to be is with their parents, not brought up by some surrogate nursery worker.

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    BG

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • It seems to me that the lady is being more than a little disingenuous with that business of childcare costing her £100 a month more than mortgage, as she gives us no idea of either. Fair enough, her business, but she penned the whinge that got up everybody's nose, so let's have a stab. She's young, there are two of them toiling away in their middle class occupations, so it's a fair bet that's a pretty chunky mortgage. If "child care" (I prefer "farming out") costs £100 more then I don't suppose young 'un is being left with Aunt Elsie down the road but somewhere much more upmarket - somewhere far more in keeping with the standards of the modern aspirational middle class part time parent? In the end you can't put a value on the mother-child relationship. You can't replace Mum reading to child, teaching himher the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, telling the time, basic morals, playing with them, expanding their minds, taking them out to the park... That's Mum's job and it's a pleasure. Unless you think money more important.

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    Henry the cat

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • @ Daisy Root - How right you are. We brought up our kids on one wage ( which wasn`t a lot) and the only thing we got was the family allowance. None of the welfare benefits they get nowadays which are even given to those on a good wage. It really winds me up when I read whinges like this. If you decide to have children, they are your responsibility to bring up - not the tax payer. If you want everything now then for pity sake don`t have children. One or other.

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    BG

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • My parents would have been amazed by the phrase "child care costs" unless it referred to an orphanage. But let's translate this middle class speak into what it really means on the bottom line - newer or second car, more bedrooms, bigger garden, good holidays, etc.

    Report this comment

    Henry the cat

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • Call me churlish and working class, but my mother stayed at home to bring us up and my wife did the same for our kids. We didn't need to live in a house with the right postcode, didn't need a car with the right registration plate sitting outside (or any car at all, usually), didn't need to take foreign holidays (or any holidays), and funnily enough managed to be quite happy. What I don't get is how the decision between working and raising your own child is "difficult". My mum would have called raising her own children a duty, as my wife still does. No real thought necessary for working class women of their generation. Spare me middle class angst while there are people around with real, tough decisions to make.

    Report this comment

    Henry the cat

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • I'afraid this decision tells you all you need to know about the Old Etonians running this country,a subsidy to those earning £300,000 a year to employ their nannies and au pairs in a Downton Abbey economy.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • The previous posts sum up my views entirely. I have become heartily sick of my taxes being squandered on subsidising lifestyle choices. The coalition parties have certainly lost my vote.

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    guella

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • How can this young lady bear to leave this adorable little fellow with a stranger all day. She is missing all those 'growing up' years that are so important to both him and her. If you want to be a parent you should be prepared to give up just 45 years of your working life for him. It goes so quickly and you're missing so much. Money and possessions can never replace what you are going to lose.

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    Sandy.L

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • Fully agree with some of the other comments made, how many of those complaining about the cost of child care also have 2 or 3 cars SUVs and several holidays per year.? How about people take responsibility and only have children if they can actually afford the associated costs, including child care, everybody wants something for nothing. What next - taxpayer subsidy for your new smartphone, because the latest model is a bit too expensive ?

    Report this comment

    DocScott

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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