18th January 2016
by Marie Peacock
The issue of benefits, dependency and strategies to reduce the welfare bill are regularly analysed in policy circles and in the media. Today Civitas is discussing this very topic.
But the matter of *Family Care* and the extra responsibilities and costs of *Raising A Family* are all-too-rarely debated. It’s assumed that families can somehow lift themselves out of poverty/low income by getting both the mother and the father working longer hours to make up for low pay and to meet rising costs of accommodation. In other words it’s up to families to sort themselves out.
But who looks after the children and who thinks about children’s needs for love and family care? As ever, too little attention is paid by Govt to children’s needs and family relationships and also the time needed to take care of the elderly (even as we read more and more about growing isolation and loneliness).
Also, too little attention is paid to the problem of low pay, poor pay progression, housing costs and the gap between lowest and highest paid employees in companies.
We need to stop blaming people on in-work benefits, income top-up payments /tax credits, and start asking employers why vast numbers of people aren’t paid a fair amount for a fair day’s work in the first place! And we need an end to the lower minimum wage paid to younger adults.
And what about the Govt’s responsibility? Crucially we need to ask why the UK does not yet have a fair family taxation system based on overall income coming into the household and care responsibilities for dependents. It’s unbelievable that in the UK some households on X income without any children pay less tax than parents on same overall X income with three or four children to care for and support. How can that be?
We need more joined up thinking. We need to boost the pay of lower paid workers and, crucially, we need to respect family care responsibilities and the time this takes. A working/taxpaying household often has one parent doing the hugely important job of caring/running a family home. It can’t be right that the second adult caring for young children (usually the mother) is forced back into paid work (often low paid) when she/he is already doing important unpaid ‘work’ at home. The value of unpaid care is worth £343 billion according to the Office of National Statistics. We need to Value Care Work More.
Perhaps the narrative of ‘dependency’ is not so much people depending on welfare, but rather the way the system itself is propped up by and depends on unpaid or low paid care work. Without the productivity and contribution of care work, for the young, vulnerable or elderly, in homes and communities up and down the country, then the entire system would soon collapse. Time to expose the truth!