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Universal, free childcare - is it a solution?

(328 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 01-Nov-12 21:55:00

This week, Mumsnet Blogger Mummyisagadgetgeek reports back from an event organized by the thinktank Progress on the subject of universal childcare. Should they win the next election, Labour are considering it as a possible policy - so we thought it would be good to find out what it was all about.

So: read her blog report from the event, tell us what you think here on the thread - and if you blog, let us know about it. We'll be tweeting posts next week.

WillSantaComeAgain Fri 02-Nov-12 13:59:59

Thanks to the wonderfully liberating concept of contraception, each and every woman (and, for that matter, man) chooses to have a child. I see absolutely no reason why the state should subsidise that choice. In a similar way, my parents have drummed into us from an early age that if we have children, we're on our own and cannot expect free childcare from them. It makes me really mad when I see people expecting so much of their own parents. Selfish selfish people.

The sooner people see having children as a privilage not a right, the better. If you can't afford to have a child, then you shouldn't have one. [For what its worth, if I had unlimited money, I would have six children. As I am not a millionaire, I will limit it at two. That said, if I had made different choices in life about my career, my housing and my hobbies, we could probably afford more.]

I suppose its all about what you believe the function of the state should be. should it be there just to pick up the pieces when capitalism goes wrong or should it play a much wider role and support all aspects of your life, whether or not you "need" it or not.

I worry too about the consequences of a move like this - if it encourages more people out to work, then it will be another upward pressure on house prices as many more of the middle class who previously would have made the logical decision to become a SAHP will suddenly find they can afford the larger garden and the fifth bedroom (to house the fourth child).

That said, I do believe that childcare in this country is ridiculously expensive. I can't work out the business model of a nursery, because there doesn't seem to be much money in it and the carers are definitely not that well paid.

WillSantaComeAgain Fri 02-Nov-12 14:02:50

Ooo, before I get flamed (even more than I probably will already) I do appreciate that some GPs are willingly and lovingly provide childcare. However, I know of more than one GP who has been coerced into it and has had their lives turned upside down as a result.

halloweeneyqueeney Fri 02-Nov-12 14:09:40

"BTW I think it is actually a massive vote loser for the Labour Party"

I agree, they need to prove they can get existing provisions working well (NHS, primary/secondary school, police) before they start chucking money at another scheme that'll be abandoned in a few years time!

mumzy Fri 02-Nov-12 14:34:08

childcare costs to be paid tax free would be a more progressive step IMO

BoffinMum Fri 02-Nov-12 15:07:22

All these arguments were made in relation to free universal elementary education in the 1850s. Luckily the arguments for free education eventually drowned out the nay sayers who resented it, and consequently we now take free education for granted. If this hadn't been the case, we would probably be a third world country by now as the workforce would be so unskilled and unsocialised.

I imagine in 2160 we will wonder what all the fuss was about and why people were forced to pay for childcare in order to go to work, as it is a totally bonkers idea when you really think about it. Some workers effectively being fined for leaving the house? Simply because they have had the temerity to reproduce, as the species demands?


Treats Fri 02-Nov-12 15:22:41

morethanpotatoprints - not sure what you're asking me (I'm very confused today grin). I was responding to the earlier point that free childcare undermines SAHPs. I disagree - I think that not having to pay the costs of childcare equalises the choice between going out to work and staying at home. You can make a free choice about what's best for your family.

The 15 free hours is all that anyone is entitled to - not just SAHPs.

OddBoots Fri 02-Nov-12 15:34:50

"The sooner people see having children as a privilage not a right, the better."

Yes and no, having a child is a privilege but it is, from the point of view of society, also essential - people bringing up children (well) are working to support our ongoing society and that is an important role. There shouldn't be a general moral judgement in favour of or against those who do or those who don't have children.

frazzled09 Fri 02-Nov-12 15:37:49

How would they decide who is eligible for the free childcare? If eligible for absolutely everyone, then SAHPs feel redundant. People who don't want to work will take the free offering (from taxes) and give nothing back in income tax. But if you can't find a job, you are excluded from something that is effectively a universal benefit. Sounds unworkable to me.

Far too expensive. And I like being able to choose my childcare provider. Can't see that being possible under this proposed system. Will create "state" and "private" nurseries, just like with schools.

If something needs to be done, then consider improving the current tax credits system with a realistic means-tested childcare subsidy. So that those on lower incomes can afford to go back to work if they want to. Or let people pay 100% of their childcare bill from pre-tax earnings, instead of capping it at £243 per month (barely enough for 2 days per week at nursery).

The current 15 hours is laughable for working parents anyway. Scrap that, and put the money into subsidies for those that need it in order to be able to afford to work more than 2 hours a day (all you can manage if you are sticking to the 15 free hours).

BlueStringPudding Fri 02-Nov-12 15:45:00

Something needs to be done about making childcare more affordable, but this isn't it. I agree with mumzy - "childcare costs to be paid tax free would be a more progressive step IMO ".

fusam Fri 02-Nov-12 15:55:09

It would be interesting if one of their think tanks did a study on the number of women forced out of work (and out of paying income tax) by expensive childcare plus the lost revenue over a lifetime of lagging behind in salary due to being forced to take time out.

I stress the word forced rather than choose.

I wonder if HRMC would be able to collect more in taxes over the lifetime of a working woman if there was at least subsidised (or tax deductible) childcare in place in the early years.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Nov-12 16:00:34


I wasn't sure if you were talking about the 15 hours only or the addition of childcare element of tax credits.
All I know is that no amount of money either earned or not would have attracted me into work. Other sahp who do it by choice I think would feel the same. I didn't want others to bring my dc up, so have to live within my means for this choice.
FWIW, I have said this on other threads but a Conservative Gov, lets face it thats what we have. Favours the tradition nuclear family with one sahp, it is their main policy and always has been. No way will they continue to promote subsidised or free childcare as the previous gov did.

OddBoots Fri 02-Nov-12 16:06:26

This (coalition) government is increasing the provision of some free childcare, the 2 year funding is being rolled out in Sept '13 to any family that meets the free school dinners criteria and is being extended to the 40% most deprived (criteria not yet decided/announced) in Sept '14. I believe the aim is to improve things for more children rather than getting more parents out to work though.

ByTheWay1 Fri 02-Nov-12 16:22:02

I chose to have kids and I chose to raise them myself.... I would not use "free" childcare....

why is it that the men in suite don't seem to understand that some of us actually LIKE to spend time with our own children, and have made the life choices and sacrifices needed in order to make that happen.... I would not willingly trot off to the workplace "if only" childcare were to be "free"...

Why not just PAY ME TO LOOK AFTER MY OWN KIDS - if you are going to pay anyone to.... why not me....

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Nov-12 16:36:58


I agree with you 100% but not sure many will.

What annoys me is some people think they are entitled / should be entitled to subsidised childcare. I have nothing against both parents going out to work if they can afford the childcare.
People regularly say of those sahp claiming tax credits/other benefits "If you can't afford kids you shouldn't have them", but both parents working with subsidised childcare are no different.
They argue that they are contributing to society by paying tax, which they are doing. But while they are at work its the sahp's who are contributing to the local and national economy by shopping/ keeping local business afloat.
Also many families with both parents working unless they earn in excess of 50k are saying they have little disposable income, whereas the sahp I know tend to have alot more.
So my point is perhaps if we all lived within our means and expected welfare to be there for people who really needed it there would be no argument about who's entitled to what.

CountryKitty Fri 02-Nov-12 16:46:22

Another policy that doesn't makes no sense what-so-ever and will be financed no doubt by the already tightly squeezed middle classes.

Where's the economic sense in paying for childcare for someone who only earns minimum wage?? The cost of childcare will far outweigh the taxes that person pays to the gov't....

Agree the full cost of childcare should be allowed to be deducted from gross salary. The current cap, as stated above, is a joke.

Treats Fri 02-Nov-12 17:02:52

potatoprints - I don't think the govt does favour the 'traditional' model. I thought their policy was to try to encourage as many parents back to work as possible.

I think it's absolutely fine that you and ByTheWay choose to stay at home with your children. I'm glad that you have that option and are happy with it.

I think it's less fine that parents who want to work, who think that their families would benefit from them going out to work, CAN'T because the cost of childcare is too much of a barrier. Universal free childcare would remove that barrier and create a free choice.

We all depend upon benefits to a certain extent - the govt want to reduce EVERYONE's dependents on benefits, and to do that, they need households to get a greater share of their income from paid work.

Working parents go shopping too.........

Bundlejoycosysweet Fri 02-Nov-12 17:08:33

My concern with this policy is that it might make employers even less keen on flexible working as in theory every parent could work full time if child care were free.

I choose to work part time as I like working but I also want to spend plenty of time with my kids.

In an ideal world it would be employers that were forced to be more flexible and more willing to employ people part time in good career enhancing jobs. I had to go freelance as I could not find quality part time work. If employers were more flexible then life for working parents would be a lot easier.

UndeadPixie Fri 02-Nov-12 17:09:54

At first glance it seems like a great idea. But selfishly I also wonder what will happen to all of the private nurseries, childminders and nannies. I doubt they'll fund nannies and I won't be able to work any more, as I have no interest in working only for the rich, as who else will want to have a nanny when they can get childcare for free? I will be out of a career even, as I have no interest in nursery work or school work. There isn't much left for childcarers after that! How many people will be out of work if they make this 'free'?

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Nov-12 17:30:36


Its not just myself and ByTheWay who has the option, everybody does. I'm sorry but I disagree with you and believe if you can't afford to work you shouldn't expect others to pay for your childcare.
I know working parents go shopping too, but its more often to a multi billionnairre company to save time. I am able to spend full days if I so require supporting local markets and small businesses. I also receive tax credit and dh has WTC and I get cb. Our payments won't change and neither have I heard of another sahp whose payments are dropping. So I don't agree with your interpretation of government policy or sahp's would be losing benefit.

Bonsoir Fri 02-Nov-12 17:44:08

Governments want as many adults as possible to work and pay (massive) taxes and would like parents to meet the costs of childcare (and all other expenses). There is a rather large hazy area of the population for whom childcare costs (plus other costs of working) wipe out the income of many second earners, which therefore discourages otherwise able-bodies adults from working. Hence various proposals to help parents meet the costs of childcare. But have no doubt: these are policies designed to ensure as many adults as possible are in the workforce. Families, children and their welfare are not the issue.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Nov-12 18:13:37


If this was the case surely the Gov would be making it harder for sahp. I have done the online calculator for FTC and Universal Credit and I am better off as a sahp as are any other families in the same circumstance. This is irrespective of childcare costs. Since I had my 3 dc eldest 21 we have been better off as a family with me as a sahp.
I find it hard to understand why so many people are prepared to work for very little after childcare, or even nothing. I know some want to work but at what expense? I hear some people say it will be better when the dcs are at school and childcare less but I don't see how that works either. There is no way our mortgage would be paid off now had I worked and had to pay child care.

dreamingofsun Fri 02-Nov-12 18:58:08

its not free though is it? The taxpayer will pay for it.

dreamingofsun Fri 02-Nov-12 19:01:10

we pay quite enough tax in this country already, and anything that increases this is wrong. People should be responsible for their own families. Do I really want to subsidise someone who has loads of kids, or someone who earns a fortune - no - especially when I've had to fork out loads myself for childcare and am now reaping some benefit now my kids are older.

HappyMummyOfOne Fri 02-Nov-12 19:08:58

It could work great if you can choose your professional provider and if funded by all child related benefits stopping.

Those that want to work will be able too and those that want a parent to not do so on the understanding that that choice is funded by themselves only. Dont see how that devalues a SAHP, people would still have that choice just not at the expense of others.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Nov-12 19:15:29


Do you mean that the taxes paid by a family with one earner should go towards paying for childcare of a family with 2 parents working?
Surely if a family can survive on one wage a family earning 2 shouldn't need subsidised childcare, at the expense of others.

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