Thursday, 9 May 2013

Family-friendly government

If you choose to stay at home to bring up your children or care for your aged parents or an ailing spouse, things don't look too good for you, after yesterday's Queen's Speech. They were already looking grim for you, in fact, as a result of the government's child care plans.

Should you choose to do anything as old-fashioned and quaint as to keep your children at home until statutory school-age or even forego employment so that you are there when the kids come home from school or available when they are ill, it will affect your state pension - for the worse. How come? Hitherto, when you were a stay-at-home mum up until your children finished at school (or aged 20 if they were still in education), you were counted in on your husband's national insurance contributions (in effect his salary counted as both his and yours, which of course is what it was). That meant that the years you were busily employed caring for your children counted towards your state pension. This could be worth up to £66 per week, plus pension for years when you had been in employment up to a maximum of £110 per week. (

The new scheme will discriminate against those who stay at home to care for their children, as the state pension will be based solely on your national insurance contributions from employment. It's yet to be announced what the minimum number of years' contributions will entitle you to any state pension (between seven and ten?). If it was seven, you'd get £28.77 pension a week. Less than that, you'd get nothing. To me this sounds as though the Government, for all its fine words, sets no value on mums or dads staying at home for the sake of their children. Certainly the usual pattern of family life has changed since the 1940s, but the jury is still out on the benefits or otherwise of that change for children. Incidentally I heard this proposal first mooted, leaked, poisonously on the BBC as a measure to prevent immigrants cashing in on our welfare system - no contributions: no pension.

This morning I heard Laura Perrins, barrister and stay-at-home mum, talking on Woman's Hour about the Government's discrimination against people like her. She hit the headlines in March taking the Deputy Prime Minister to task over the double injury inflicted on those in her situation by the new child benefit and childcare policies. As a barrister married to another barrister, she took a big cut in income to stay at home. Since her husband earns over £50,000, they are now no longer entitled to child benefit (Fair enough, they thought; times are tough), even though couples who are both out at work earning up to something over £90,000 are entitled to child benefit. To add insult to injury, the Budget introduced a provision for up to 15 hours' free childcare - but only where both parents are employed.

To quote Laura in her exchange with the oleagenous Nick Clegg:

"Well, Mr Clegg, child benefit was a fair way of recognising everybody's legitimate choice either to work outside the home or to work inside the home. You've essentially abolished that for families like me and replaced it with this, which applies only to mums who want to go out to work.
"I've absolutely no problem with mums who want to do that – there are plenty of my neighbours who do that and I support them fully. But they also recognise that I do a difficult job at home, and by taking away our child benefit and not replacing it with anything you are clearly discriminating against us.
"And then, secondly, in relation to the 15 hours of free childcare or the free early-years education, which I knew you would say ... that doesn't just help stay-at-home mums, that is as you know a universal education provision that is for the children, not for the parents. That's like saying free primary education helps mums, or free secondary helps stay-at-home mums
"There is absolutely no provision within the tax system to help families like myself, and our family is no doubt a net contributor to the Exchequer.
"I just feel that this provision is to bump up the GDP numbers, because if I was looking after someone else's children that would count as a GDP number, which is all that I think the Treasury care about. They know the price of everything and the value of nothing." (Stay-at-home mother, Laura Perrins, talks to Nick Clegg)

I seem to remember Mr Cameron trumpeting his intention to lead "the most family-friendly government Britain has ever had". Well, it seems to promote the model of family of its leaders, where both parents go out to work and "delegate the care of their children to paid strangers" (Milli Hill, Letter to Nick Clegg), and to penalise the alternative. So much for the espousal of "choice" that we hear so much about. Choice - but it will cost you dearly. Of course it won't cost our PM or his deputy or his cabinet for whom state pensions and childcare costs are irrelevancies.


  1. The trouble with ALL politicians today is their lust for money and "making things pay".

  2. Thank God for people like you, Michael, who have the time and heart to sift through events and dig out truth. Keep teaching!