Wow…something from an Anglican Bishop that would not go down too well at a North London dinner party? I kid you not…
Rt Rev Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham, warned government policies promoting childcare were focused on the interests on parents returning to work and not what was best for children.
The Bishop was taking part in a House of Lord debate about
Samantha Cameron’s…whoops..David Cameron’s latest get-the-women-out-to-work-at taxpayers’-expense wheeze
David Cameron’s Childcare Bill offers to double free childcare for three and four-year-olds from 15 hours per week during term time to 30 hours. The Tories argue the measure will ‘help parents who want to work’.
The good bishop had the sheer audacity to imply that the so-called Conservative government’s plans were “putting pressure on parents and mothers in particular to be valued as economic units rather than having the most important role of parenting their children valued”.
He’s battling a lost cause, of course. We have been told that our rulers want another 500,000 more women in the workplace by 2016 and the new child care proposals will help the UK reach that target.
Who the hell said that? It’s a target we need to achieve and we need to achieve it, like, yesterday. Conveniently it’s a nice round number that can easily be remembered and constantky quoted, not like, say, 437,492. Whoever heard of a f###ing target like that?
OK – but why? What is the rationale behind that nice round plump quotable number?
It’s the EU, ennit….
According to the Treasury the target of getting nearly 500,000 women into work “would allow the UK to match the female employment rate in Germany and the second-highest overall employment rate in the G7 grouping of major economic powers.”2 The EU’s five year Gender Equality Strategy states that Europe has a target employment rate of 75% overall for women and men by 2020. 3 According to EU data4 the “UK was 1 of 10 countries to have reached the Barcelona targets for children aged 0-3yrs old. In the UK, 35% of children aged 0-3 were in formal childcare in 2011, although most (30%) of children were in part-time childcare”.
…and those awkward mums who who don’t want to spend the pre-school years working but want to be at home caring full time for them are giving two fingers to the Barcelona target.
Trouble is that it’s not only the state that wants both parents working – there’s a whole raft of commercial interests that need parents to spend in order to increase profit. Spending is good and the advertising industry and its willing accomplices in the media exist to squeeze those extra pounds from our pockets and purses.
But ‘twas not ever the case. When we (both teachers) married in 1967 we knew we wanted a family but we were prepared to wait 3/4 years to put some money aside for the time when my wife would no longer be working. We had a mortgage for our modest suburban semi-detached that took a chunk of our income to repay but did not overstretch us (Building Socieities in those days had very strict lending rules). During the four years before our firstborn we were very careful with our money. We went out to eat and/or drink very rarely. We did not take holidays but instead maybe went out on the odd day trip. Although we both liked to dress fashionably we were not slaves to style – and when the kids came along my wife gave up work to be a full time stay at home mum and we continued to be careful spenders.
Our only extravagance was a car. We’d seen mums struggling onto buses and trains with children and pushchairs and bags and felt that a 1970s lower middle class family could do better than that. But it was not, of course, a new car. Like everyone else we began with a well worn second hand Ford Anglia. In other words (how old fashioned) we cut our coat according to our cloth. We “made do”…baked our own cakes, made our own squash, sewed a lot of our own clothes.
Eventually, once our second born started primary school my wife returned to a measure of part-time teaching and we were able to enjoy a few more creature comforts. But we never regretted the frugality of those early years. The love and interest and attention we (or rather my wife) was able to devote to our children could never be measured through quantifiable units – you cannot easily measure quality.
Today’s parents appear to be unwilling to make such sacrifices. A new car (or cars) seem to be de rigueur. Holidays abroad are simply a must-have. Restaurants and pubs now need to be children friendly so that meals can be eaten out and a lively social life maintained.
But this costs money – so both parents need to work to afford such goodies…which is why the government is pushing at an open door when, according to the bishop, it hints that a stay at home parent is…well…to put it bluntly a tad…unpatriotic…
But debating the plan in the Lords, the Bishop of Durham warned the focus on childcare creates the impression ‘that a parent choosing not to work but to raise their child themselves is somehow not doing the best for the nation or the child’.
Sorry, Bish old bean – you are just a voice in the wilderness…..(now where have I heard that phrase before?)