by Claire Paye
6th October 2015
The Conservative Party Conference motto is ‘Security. Stability. Opportunity.’ Brilliant! This is exactly what mothers and fathers can offer their children when they care for them. ‘Life chances’ is the new buzz word on the block. Excellent! Nothing improves a child’s life chances, including those born into poverty, more than receiving sensitive care-giving from an attentive mother. The life chances of those children with good attachment and resilience are much better than they would have been without the care of a consistent, loving, well-attuned adult (who is usually one or both of their parents).
‘We are the Party of low taxes’ is the Conservative mantra. Fantastic! Extend the partial Transferable Tax Allowance into a fully Transferable Tax Allowance for parents who care for their children full time, in order to reduce the unfair penalty on single income families.
‘We are the Party for working people’. Wonderful. Let the mothers who want to care for their children full time do so to free up the low-skilled, fairly low paid jobs they generally do for young people getting that all important ‘experience’ to start them on their career path. ‘
We are dedicated to cutting the deficit’. Super. By introducing a level playing field in the tax system, more families can care for their own children, saving the State a fortune in childcare costs.
‘We want to help people out of poverty.’ Absolutely. But a single parent putting her child into childcare so she can work is not necessarily the solution. If a child’s life chances are much improved by spending time with a caring and attentive parent, they may be reduced if that parent isn’t there for the all-important first few years.
‘Some mothers struggle to parent adequately so the solution is to put the child/baby into childcare.’ Yes, sometimes, in extremis. But why not help with parenting skills and supportive local services, to break the cycle of poor parenting?
‘Too much screen time is a possible factor in the rise of mental health issues in children’. Why are they spending so much time on the screen? Could it be because their time-impoverished parents need something to occupy the children at 6pm when they get home from work or over the weekend while they cook, sort out the washing, fill in the school forms, sort out the bills and do all the other little jobs that keep a family going?
The genuinely dedicated and very hard-working MPs at the Conservative Party Conference, along with many experts, are clearly aware of the issues facing families. What is frustrating is to hear the mooted solution always being more mothers back into paid work and more children into childcare.
There are some MPs who support a level-playing field for families caring for their own children and we welcome their efforts. There are some leading Conservatives and advisers who are clearly frustrated that stay at home mothers are the ‘Cinderella’ of political policies.
It seems to be hard to convey the point that whilst some mothers want to work, and we celebrate the fact that they can do so, other mothers would like to care for their children themselves but they can’t choose to do so. If they go out to work they will be paid for their work, receive a budget from the Government for childcare, and will pay less tax per family member. If they choose to care for their children themselves, they will save the Government money and will pay more tax per family member. It’s heads they win, tails you lose.
Stay at home parents had a clear voice at the Conservative Party Conference because of Mothers at Home Matter’s efforts to ask searching questions at each debate we went to. At the moment, there is no ‘appetite’ to level out the injustices in the tax system to offer a level playing field. What the employment/childcare-focussed MPs, and whoever the next leader is, need to hear is that there are mothers and fathers (ie ‘voters’) who care about who cares for their children. The only people they remember hearing from are mothers who have to work but find that childcare is too expensive.
Please keep sending us your stories via Facebook or email and please contact your MP to make your views known, whether they are Labour, Lib Dem or Conservative. Could Labour become the party which lets families choose who cares for their children? Will the Conservatives ever become the party of fair taxation, low intervention in family life and parental choice? Will anyone really offer children the chance to enjoy stability, security and opportunity in their lives?