MumsnetGuestBlogs (MNHQ) Mon 18-Nov-13 17:17:08

Ed Miliband's childcare proposals - is wraparound care really the solution?

Today Ed Miliband outlined his party's childcare proposals – including 25 hours of free childcare a week for three and four-year-olds, and guaranteed wraparound care in primary schools. The signs are that childcare will be a key battleground in the run up to the general election – but MN blogger Glosswitch wonders if the proposed reforms are really the solution to the childcare 'problem'.

Read the post, and let us know what you think on the thread below.

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Mon 18-Nov-13 17:17:08


Labour's proposals include extending free childcare for three and four-year-olds

Ed Miliband has announced that a Labour government would improve access to affordable childcare by introducing a "legal guarantee" of 8am - 6pm provision for primary-aged children, through breakfast and after-school clubs. On the face of it this sounds great. Access to affordable childcare is a major issue for so many mothers, distorting whatever semblance of choice we have in how we raise our families and pay our bills. Surely by increasing access we're moving one step closer to supporting our families in the way we would all wish?

I'm a little unsure. I like what this proposal would do in practice but the broader message makes me uneasy. According to Miliband:
Parents who want to work should be able to do so. We need to use the talents of everyone if we are to succeed as an economy and keep social security bills down. Seven out of 10 stay at home mums tell surveys that the cost of childcare has deterred them from looking for a job.

There's something about the wording of this - the pro-business rhetoric - that unsettles me. Labour will help you ensure that your family isn't a drain on the state. Is this really what passes for pro-family politics? Are we moving towards a social model which is more supportive of family life or merely more controlling?

I'll be honest: I already benefit from sending my children to a school that has wraparound childcare. I choose my words carefully; I'm not sure how much they benefit, other than by the obvious fact that as our family's main earner I need to pay the mortgage and my children need a home. My kids prefer it when I'm able to pick them up straight from school, expressing excitement if any day is a "home" day. I can torture myself with guilt over this but what is the point? I don't have any extended family nearby and Daddy has a one-hour commute. That's life, eh? But does it really have to be this way?

It often feels to me that between my mother's generation and my own, there's been a cultural shift that hasn't been wholly to our benefit. We've gone from prioritising family values in a way that limited women's ability to earn towards prioritising the needs of employers in a way that diminishes family life.

It often feels to me that between my mother's generation and my own, there's been a cultural shift that hasn't been wholly to our benefit. We've gone from prioritising family values in a way that limited women's ability to earn towards prioritising the needs of employers in a way that diminishes family life. Instead of taking a step back and overhauling our whole understanding of pay, value and reward - something which the Wages For Housework campaign wished to achieve - we've allowed politicians and employers who are not primary carers to make the odd modification to their prized, protected system. "See? You have the right to ask - to ask! - for flexible working! And to pick your children up after ten hours in school! Why aren't you happy yet? What is your problem?"

My problem is this: family life and caring work aren't to be slotted in around the needs of perennially grudging employers. They're central to who we all are and how we shape our future. By this, I don't mean that ideally, all women should be angels of the hearth instead of ball-breaking career women. Such stereotypes have only made us blame ourselves for not having made "better" choices about our lives when really, we can only make do with what's available. Other options - career sabbaticals, job shares, increased wages to allow for more part-time work, decreased wage inequality, the outrageous idea that actually, even those who "don't work" (ha!) deserve a political voice - haven't been on the table. There's been no creativity. We've accepted the lie that this is the only way things can ever be and at times we've even allowed it to make us turn on each other.

I think we are afraid of engaging with this debate fully in case it damages our status as women, casting us either as bad mothers who need to spend more time in the home or unreliable workers who let down their employers and colleagues by doing just that. It's not fair that these feel like our only choices. I'm not against Miliband's proposal; if it gives other families the basic support required to earn a wage, something from which I've benefited myself, how could I be? But I think we need to ask for something even more radical, something that really turns things upside down. The problem isn't that we're failing our families or employers, but that the weak, commercialised concept of work-life balance is still failing us and our kids.

By Glosswitch

Twitter: @glosswitch

Basketofchocolate Mon 18-Nov-13 18:08:37

God forbid parents look after their own children!

'Wraparound care' is not something DH and I ever want to discuss, although it would be nice if both of us could comfortably work. If schools concentrated on being schools and there were no breakfast clubs or after school babysitting of children, it would be interesting to see what changes would have to happen in the workplace.

I daydream that we'd all recognise parenting as something valuable and important to prioritise for both mums and dads.

Once the tipping point of men taking/picking up kids from school happens, the workplace will probably start adapting.

Fiveleaves Mon 18-Nov-13 21:38:48

Errm...teachers have kids too. They'll be out of the house at least 7-7 with proposed wraparound care.

BlackberrySeason Mon 18-Nov-13 22:22:33

Wraparound care isn't usually provided by teachers, is it?

I don't like these proposals.

WidowWadman Mon 18-Nov-13 22:34:46

"If schools concentrated on being schools and there were no breakfast clubs or after school babysitting of children, it would be interesting to see what changes would have to happen in the workplace."

Simple, the lower earner would be forced out of work, usually the woman.

I don't think teachers will be delivering the wrap around care. It'll be out of school clubs.

The main problem with childcare isn't necessarily before or after school, it's that children are always on holiday and holiday club provision is not as available as wrap around care (at least not round here). DS2's out of school club does a holiday club in another part of town that's awkward to get to and isn't necessarily staffed by anyone he knows. And local provision runs from 10-4 and isn't staffed by anyone he knows. As he's only 4, this is a bit of a problem. It was all much simpler when he was at nursery and they were open pretty much all the time.

Some employers do offer flexibility like annualised PT hours with more time off in the school holidays.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 18-Nov-13 23:19:04

I think this is absolute rubbish.

Yes, ok support the service etc for those needing wraparound care it will be beneficial.
However, take away the sahps, the pt and ft workers who are able to drop and collect from normal school hours, those with extended family for childcare, sorry if I've missed a group.
How many people are we talking about?
Surely it is a minority.
I don't believe that 7/10 sahps would rush to find work if there was wraparound care. Obviously some are unable to work and would like to and these of course will benefit. But don't most sahps choose to because they want to?

MsMarple Mon 18-Nov-13 23:30:50

I'd be cautious about taking that 7/10 statistic at face value. I suspect lots of people say that working isn't worth their while 'because of the cost of childcare', but are actually quite glad to have that as a validation/excuse for their choice to stay at home. It sometimes feels like society expects you to go back to work when your baby is one, and if you don't do it you need to make a whole raft of supporting arguments, because thinking it is the best thing for your children isn't good enough.

timidviper Mon 18-Nov-13 23:34:18

I think it is really sad that liberation has backfired on us so badly. Women fought to get us the chance to work if we wanted to have a career, now we are forced to work by economic constraints like rising home prices, all perpetuated by government policies, so things have changed but we still have no choice.

This provision of childcare will just further damage family life and nobody will benefit as we all run faster to stand still

donttrythisathome Mon 18-Nov-13 23:37:39

I completely agree. Parents minding their own children is not seen as any value. The default is that we all do what is best for the economy. Business "leaders" have the only opinions that count and screw the rest of us.
I acknowledge all the ways in which women have it better than our parents, but at least then society did value the work of a homemaker/childrearer.
I want a society where both or either parents are expected and supported to raise their children.
Ironically this too would be for the best for our country-not just economically but socially too.
What can we do when the choices are so abysmal-i want to become more active in getting a better society. Any ideas?

LCHammer Tue 19-Nov-13 00:37:21

Breakfast clubs and afterschool clubs are very helpful. I wouldn't be able to work the hours I do, and neither would my husband, without this.

I agree about the need to think creatively and come up with new ideas. This will take ages, maybe even a whole generation. For something needed now, that can be achieved in the near future, wrap around care is a hood solution.

madwomanintheatt1c Tue 19-Nov-13 05:02:33

This is just labour's extended schools thing, again, isn't it? Breakfast clubs and after school clubs?
Totally agree that the issue is evening up the childcare provision to be gender neutral and re-addressing work life balance for everyone, rather than solving it by putting both parents to work for longer each day.

That said, I'm in favour of options. I'm not in favour of cultural imperatives. And I would not want the use of extended schools/ wraparound care to become a cultural imperative. Just as I intensely dislike the current gendered imperative where mummy has to get a pt time job to pick the kids up on time.

Ed doesn't quite seem to have noticed that many jobs nowadays don't have nice neat 9-5 hours, or people have commutes that mean 8-6 childcare will let you get to work, do your 9-5 and then get home on time again. That may not even be possible if you and your OH juggle drop offs and pick ups.

I always wonder about the women's choice to stay at home thing. Why should it simply be the case that women get to choose while men are expected to work to pay for this? The thing about feminism is that it isn't about simply getting more choices for women; it's about changing the expectations and possibilities for everyone, and changing the way we think. Wouldn't it be better if we all started thinking more in terms of equal co-parents than women as primary parents and men as drop in and parent when they can types?

MaryPoppinsBag Tue 19-Nov-13 07:19:23

I don't want mine in school 8-6 everyday. And those times don't cover all jobs. It wouldn't cover my DH's 8.30-5 working hours as he has a commute too, and leaves at 7.30 and back at 6.30. And certainly wouldn't have covered him when he worked 60 miles away 9-5.30 and then was expected to do one hour extra every night. Employers attitudes would need to change.

It wouldn't cover my mindees parents who have dropped her at 6.30 this morning. (Nurse and construction worker who do shifts). It also wouldn't cover my teacher customer either who dropped off at 7.30am.

Who will pay for this care? The true cost I mean. Our schools before and after school club shut, probably lack of demand and funding issues.

They want our children from two years old now and then 8am until 6pm when they get to school age.

No thanks.

merrymouse Tue 19-Nov-13 07:29:22

The reality is that 'wraparound care' is only OK for some children some of the time. For many reasons some children struggle with school and a longer school day isn't a viable childcare option for them.

Most well paid jobs assume a wife at home with either no job or a secondary career that fits around the children. I haven't got any brilliant ideas to change this, except maybe rewarding companies who promote flexible and remote working for people with dependants of all ages, not just children. (Maybe a reduction in Employer's NI?)

I also think more support for child minding, where children get to leave school and decompress in a house rather than a school would be a good thing.

merrymouse Tue 19-Nov-13 07:34:16

some children struggle with school After 6.5 hours of school they have an understandable desire to go home.

BlondieTinsellyMinx Tue 19-Nov-13 08:08:17

YY TimidViper has summed it up!

Work/life balance is very hard to achieve; more so given that for many women the "life" bit seems to consist of domestic work like cleaning and general organising of family life (whether that be arranging social stuff/ferrying kids to activities/preparation and planning e.g. cleaning and packing of kit)...

working9while5 Tue 19-Nov-13 08:20:47

I am en route to work now. Dh has injured his knee, requires reconstructive surgery and can't drive for the forseeable future. He always did pick up and drop off, I have an hour and a half commute and his workplace is a mile away. Mine were dropped off and I was back ij car by 7.45, already half an hour late for work and knowing I have to leave early to make a 6pm pick up.

So... we have to take on another day's childcare but this means essentially I am running at a massive loss and haemmorhaging money for right to work. No jobs closer to home, no real option to move with mortgage in negative equity. Financially it's disastrous.

It's also not what I want. I don't want my young kids in childcare and school 50 hours a week. I was a latchkey child of a single mum and it was lonely and sad. We went to a childminder who never spoke until I was 11 and then I had to take over and care for my sister.

Giving up work or taking up less skilled work is becoming more and more likely. I can't give up on family life but do I have to give up on the eight years in education alongside working in my career?

I don't think there are easy answers.

AmandinePoulain Tue 19-Nov-13 08:25:46

Basket if our breakfast and after school club disappeared tomorrow both mine and dh's employer wouldn't suddenly turn around and allow us to start late/finish early and still pay us the same so that is hardly realistic! Especially as I work/study am hour away (I'm doing a professional postgrad qualification) so I'd after dropping dd1 off I'd get there at 10 and have to leave again at 2 hmm). And dh does his fair share, I'm not the only one juggling.

We are very lucky to be offered a free breakfast club from 8 and after school club for £2.50 an hour until 5:30. It isn't run by teachers, it's run by TAs. I'm not sure how realistic it would be to force all schools to offer that though - they may not have the resources. And as a pp said, what about the holidays?

Meringue33 Tue 19-Nov-13 08:58:51

Did I miss it or did the blog not mention men?

I would love it if the assumption was that both men and women would take a career break after the birth of a child, and both would return to the labour force part time while raising a family together.

Spottybra Tue 19-Nov-13 09:41:23

My primary concern here us children's welfare. No studies I have ever read have shown that extended care outside a nurturing family home is better.

Politicians are all about business models. What's so wrong with RESTRUCTURING our economy to allow a parent to be at home before and after school thus abolishing the need for wraparound care?

Puddlet Tue 19-Nov-13 09:45:04

We tried 2 different after school clubs and DD (5) hated both of them. It was just too institutional even tho the women that ran them were lovely. She's now with a childminder after school 2 days a week and it's great - much better for everyone.

Good post, not sure about the commiditisation of family life, but can certainly see its politicisation. Agree about need for shift in attitudes, more flexible options (and abandoning assumptions) and also that realisation that children don't necessarily benefit from being in institutionalised setting as opposed to home setting for extended hours.

LibraryBook Tue 19-Nov-13 10:05:14

Would the wrap around care guarantee operate in place of school (9-3) during the teachers' strikes, even when the strikes are called at short notice? Would the wrap around care guarantee run all day during all school holidays? Would the guarantee extend to looking after my child while he's got chicken pox? And his sister when she catches it a few weeks later?

LibraryBook Tue 19-Nov-13 10:12:08

I dislike the idea it's very Red Ed.

"As well as nutrition daily health-care and cleansing are addressed with posters showing the proper way to cut a child's fingernails, how to weigh your child and the best way to bathe, feed and carry children. One of the posters includes a lengthy quote from Lenin extolling the virtues of creating communal creches which mothers could send their children to so that they themselves might go out to work."

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