What are our recommendations for action?

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 MAHM has a number of actions:


In order to better support family life and meet children’s developmental needs we believe that:

We need to value  the work of ‘care’ and elevate it to the status it deserves

As a society we need to better value ‘care’ and elevate the status of care and unpaid work. How we do this needs to be debated in a cross-departmental enquiry.

‘Family time’ needs to be protected:

We need to recognise children’s need for doses of time and love. Children, young people and adults need ‘family time’ to thrive.  

It makes sense to have a ‘family life cycle’ approach:

A ‘family life cycle’ approach to work and care makes good sense, and for some families a sequential pattern works well. There’s time to work and time to care, but not always at the same time.

Respect parental choice:

Parental choice and different models in care and work need to be respected.  There is no one single ‘modern’ way of ‘doing family’. The best way is what suits families best enabling them to meet their care and work responsibilities fully. 

Support mother and fathers who are both important and the work of both parents is equally important however divided:

Children need a central person in their lives – a mother-figure they can depend on who puts their needs first. This will usually be the natural mother, but not always.  Fatherhood is now well supported in policy and much research has been done,  which is long overdue  – now the same is needed to celebrate and support Motherhood.  in a fast-changing world. All too often motherhood is represented as old fashioned or ‘regressive’  but we argue that there’s nothing old fashioned about taking good care of children. 

We need an economy fit for families:

It’s a priority to build an economy that works for families and which tackles inequalities in pay levels, health,  living conditions and opportunities that often lead to stress. 

Care responsibilities must not be overlooked in the Economy:

Care responsibilities should be fully factored into our systems, including tax and allowances, in order to eradicate penalties faced by many families. Family taxation is not about ‘perks’ (it is misleading for media reports to represent it in this way) but about a level-playing field for all. We need to assess families as households when looking after family members. Modern parenting is a shared project and it makes no sense to consider mothers and fathers separately when raising a family. This includes care of the elderly.

Although it’s categorised as ‘invisible’ work the ONS estimates unpaid work at around  £343 billion!  If that isn’t ‘contributing’  what is?

Women deserve fair treatment in unpaid work:

Acknowledge that the majority of caregivers are women and they need equal treatment, fair reward and conditions in paid and unpaid care. Moving care into the paid economy does not de-gender care, but may aggravate other inequalities.

A multi-disciplinary, cross-departmental approach:

A multi-disciplinary, cross departmental approach to family policy, child and adult well-being, that extends beyond Health and Education to include Family, Fiscal systems, Employment and others.  (The lack of affordable housing deserves a special category further below).

A family test that works:

A ‘family test’ that recognises unpaid and paid work and which values motherhood and fatherhood.  The test of whether the ‘family test’ works is whether it meets children’s developmental needs and whether each individual child is valued and respected, empowering parents to provide the best possible care and environment that best fits his/her unique personality. 

Understanding impact of stress on children’s health and wellbeing:

Exposure to elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels can lead to structural changes in the brain.  High levels of cortisol have significant biological consequences impacting on health.  More research is needed into how children cope with less than optimum care experiences, for example in unfamiliar surrounding with transient carers. 

A preventative approach is essential – and would save money being diverted to intervention projects:

What better prevention service is there than the family and a mother who lovingly cares for her child? 

Housing is a priority:

Family housing, affordability and quality needs to be prioritised. Children need decent living space, as do their parents. 

Unique child – different families – different solutions:

Respect the unique child and different family circumstances and culture.  Respect diversity and protect individual rights.

Screen time:

More research is needed into the impact of screen-time on young children and teenagers

The vital importance of play to cognitive, emotional and physical development:

Prioritise opportunities for children to play and rest, and to explore the natural world. 

Give special consideration to different age groups:

The needs of of babies, the 0-3s, and children in the pre-school years.  What suits older children might not be appropriate for tiny infants. 

 Maternal Health:

Research into impact of early or long periods of separation on maternal health and wellbeing. Invest in maternity services and support parents with outreach work. 

Mental Health Services:

More investment to reverse the decline in spending in child and adolescent mental health services, as well as adult mental health.

We ask for a particular focus on maternal health health but also to be aware of the dangers of patholgising motherhood.  A celebratory model and a preventative approach, focusing on factors that lead to good health, is  just as important as tackling poor mental health. 

Watch Word:  salutogenesis and factors that promote good health. 

We’d urge policymakers to re-visit the ‘school-ready’ agenda:

The early years are a special developmental stage in their own right, not merely preparation for school. 0-5 years old are the foundation years for preparation for the whole of life. School should be ready for children, not the other way round. 

Assess whether policies reflect understanding of child development:

Explore the ‘disconnect’ between understanding of child development and how this translates into policy.

For example if we truly believe in the principles of close attachment and ‘a secure base’ then it’s not clear why policies are driving more mothers into work and more children into childcare earlier in their lives.  We  also have concerns about the length of a typical in baby rooms and the impact of these experiences on emotional, social, cognitive and physical development of young infants.  

The question is ‘Can we afford NOT to care and not to put children’s needs first?’

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