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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.

scottishmummy Fri 02-Nov-12 22:15:45

no not all parents capable undertaking childcare,in such minority cases state intervenes
you do have very mc take on the world,not all are capable parents
not all parents do the right thing. a significant minority unfortunately don't/ can't

ThePsychicSatsuma Fri 02-Nov-12 22:20:56

was reading the messages directed at Bonsoir, headed with 'Bonsoir' IYSWIM amused me - thought those posters were throwing in a cheeky bit of French.
Then thought long and hard about a namechange.... to 'HeyThereMomma' to get a smiilar effect.
as you were.

Phineyj Fri 02-Nov-12 22:31:55

Why do we need to retain women in workforce?

A lot of brave women (and men) went to considerable trouble to ensure that women could enter higher education and the professions. Without them, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. A highly educated woman who wants to return to the workforce, and doesn't because her salary wouldn't cover the childcare, is a loss to society.

Childcare should definitely be tax deductible. Not 'free' though, for all the reasons other people have said. I can't believe anyone really thinks the UK is in a position to provide it 'free', anyway.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Nov-12 22:33:00


Do you mean middle class as mc? I know not all parents take care of their dc but they are a minority thank God. I don't think we have become a society that believes women who are not working will not care for their dc.

scottishmummy Fri 02-Nov-12 22:38:39

don't make sweeping generalisations about parental capabilities

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Nov-12 22:40:37


I agree with you if the woman wants to work. I object to the assumption that if childcare was further subsidised or free all the sahm /p would go to work. I am a PG myself and had a very good career and future , I chose to give this up to care for our dc. It was the best decision I made. I feel I have succeeded in life, not had a life of drugery which some people imagine. Because this highly qualified woman is not working doesn't make her a loss to society, that really undermines motherhood, and the role of a sahp and I object to this opinion.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Nov-12 22:49:22

I didn't think it was a sweeping generalisation to say that most parents are capable of bringing their own children up. As you say those that can't are usually supported by social services.

scottishmummy Fri 02-Nov-12 22:54:31

i rightly challenged all parents are capable of providing childcare to dc
I see you've now subtly changed your wording now to most parents
so you do accept your sweeping generalization was wrong,hence change words

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Nov-12 22:57:59

No scottishmummy I'm not so petty, have just gone back and reread and of course you are right. I did make a sweeping generalisation. It wasn't intentional hence I hadn't realised I had done this and argued the point. Also hadn't realised I had changed the word. grin senior moment.

soundevenfruity Fri 02-Nov-12 23:09:40

The fact that most or few children attend childcare is a pure cultural convention as well as the age at which children start school. A lot of parents prefer to send their children at 3 to school nurseries so that is a state run childcare. As to trusting children when they are babies to complete strangers then their vulnerability is the same.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Nov-12 23:17:56


Ime I have seen and heard of so many different views of childcare and schooling, including some extremes. I know children who have never attended any school, pre school or nursery and those who have attended from 6 weeks to 21.
We all have different ideas as to what is right for our dc. Some prefer state to private and vis e versa.

VintageRainBoots Sat 03-Nov-12 03:43:06

Slate published an article about France and their affordable child care:

Here's a quote from the article:

"Though many of these policies were put in place to combat France’s falling birthrate, they have had the added benefit of getting mothers back into the workforce. After a period of paying women to stay home with their children, the French government realized that many women wanted to return to work but needed child care solutions to make this possible. This is where the government has focused its efforts, and to mostly positive results. Over 80 percent of French women work, as opposed to just under 60 percent in the United States. Though employment declines in both countries for women as they have children, in France it’s still over 80 percent for women with one child and impressively over 50 percent for women with three or more children."

VintageRainBoots Sat 03-Nov-12 04:40:07

morethan: "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."

Parents who work don't shop? I must have missed that memo.

VintageRainBoots Sat 03-Nov-12 05:03:42

BundleJoy: "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."

I agree with this wholeheartedly.

After my daughter was born, I desperately wanted to return to work---specifically, part-time work---but couldn't find a job with a salary that offset the cost of taxes (~38%) and childcare (the cheapest childminder I could find, a friend of mine who had a daughter of the same age as mine, was £7.50/hour). I ended up doing freelance bookkeeping and accounting on a part-time basis (~15 hours per week), but the economy tanked in 2008 and the amount of money companies were willing to pay plummeted to the point that I started losing money by going to work.

Sadly, I had to quit. Even when I netted £0 after taxes and childcare, part-time work was the perfect arrangement for me: I was working as a professional (though on a part-time basis) and I still got to spend most of my time with our daughter.

I wish quality part-time professional jobs were more plentiful. They're the best of both worlds for working parents. You remain gainfully employed and continue making progress in your career. But you also have significant amounts of time with your children.

VintageRainBoots Sat 03-Nov-12 05:25:47

morethan: "Most sahp are doing this out of choice and have no barriers to working. Those who want to work are doing so, if they are able to find a job. I know this because they regularly post about how much their childcare costs blar blar blar. "

First of all, some mums do find childcare to be a significant barrier to returning to work. It was for me, and it's true for many other women I know. I attempted to work part-time for a while after my daughter was born, but with the onset of the recession, I couldn't earn enough to justify doing it. It was a sad day when I had to quit working and stay home full-time.

And it's great that you love every minute of being a stay-at-home parent, but that's not true for everyone, and it certainly wasn't true for me. Your message seems to be "if you're unhappy SAH, then there's something wrong with you."

And not all mums whine about childcare costs. I'm very matter-of-fact about it. I paid £827/month for childcare when I returned to school full-time---I couldn't get a good job since I had been out of the workforce for a while, so I returned to grad school instead---and every penny of that £827 came out of my own pocket. No subsidies or vouchers. I never whined that childcare should be cheaper. In fact, I believe the total opposite: you get what you pay for. I happily spent all of my after-tax income on childcare, because it was quality childcare. My daughter was happy, and I was extremely happy, and it was the best decision for all members of our family.

However, I was not happy being a stay-at-home mum. Not at all.

Bonsoir Sat 03-Nov-12 06:53:36

On the topic of sweeping generalisations: "it is good for individual, for families to have working proven to be good for mental health and self esteem".

"Work" in this context is not necessarily paid employment.

thezoobmeister Sat 03-Nov-12 07:12:35

I find this whole notion of kids being brought up by the state hilarious.

Who do you think would be looking after your kids - Ed Miliband??

EdsRedeemingQualities Sat 03-Nov-12 07:17:41

I got offered the free childcare for 2yos a while ago. I ignored it as I prefer to have them at home with me, and frankly, I didn't think my child was ready to be away from me all day at 2.

Some parents and children might have no problem with this but I just didn't like the idea of it.

thezoobmeister Sat 03-Nov-12 07:27:34

Oh good grief - noone is suggesting making it compulsory to put your kids in childcare!

Govt basically offering parents free money which they can take or leave as they wish. What possible objection can there be to this idea??

EdsRedeemingQualities Sat 03-Nov-12 07:30:53

As long as there are no obligations or penalties for not accepting it that's fine.

However I think it might be naive to suggest that there won't be.

For instance for single parents who wish to stay at home with their children, well can you imagine the government letting them do this if there's apparently 'no excuse'?

Xenia Sat 03-Nov-12 07:49:22

By the age of 3 children like mine are streets ahead of a good few others. That difference in vocabulary is astounding and the differences are rarely ever changed. Even at 7+, 11+ or 18+ it is too late.

Many children at home with their mother do not do very well. It tends to be the less educated and lower IQ mothers who do not work (on the whole) so if this free childcare proposal of the Labour party is brought in then it will help children of the poorer housewives to compete with mine which will be a good thing for them. Nothing helps poorer children as much as early years intervention.

Also as a feminist I want women in positions of power. They don't get there by staying at home cleaning. This might help ensure women own more than the current 1% of the world's wealth. We need many many more women working their way up into good jobs. I have worked full time with 5 children without maternity leaves for nearly 30 y ears and it has been absolutely wonderful on all fronts and I encourage all women to do the same. It is also beter for children.

Also the suggestions on the thread that working class women can never earn much, are in minimum wage jobs and the like is just so defeatist. The City of London is full of working class women made good. It is a meritocracy. Anyone who is good and works hard can have those jobs if they work at it. (See women who earn £1k a day thread)

mumzy Sat 03-Nov-12 07:53:14

What would make a real difference to us would be to have reliable affordable after school care and during school holidays. Children don't stop needing child are once they start school.

EdsRedeemingQualities Sat 03-Nov-12 07:55:50

I don't work at the moment. I have an IQ of somewhere over 140.

There are a lot of things I would love to be doing, I want to have a career, to be valued at something other than being a mother.

But I find I cannot do both. If I am prioritising work I will not be prioritising my children, my mind will be on overdrive, I'll be obsessed with doing my job.

I have put it to one side while they are small. I'm sure some people find it easier to multitask in this regard but I find it incredibly hard. Even when I am working on something unpaid which I care about very much, my children are 'in the way', and I get very frustrated. That's not how I want them, or me, to feel. So I put it to one side.

Bonsoir Sat 03-Nov-12 08:02:02

"If I am prioritising work I will not be prioritising my children, my mind will be on overdrive, I'll be obsessed with doing my job.

I have put it to one side while they are small. I'm sure some people find it easier to multitask in this regard but I find it incredibly hard. Even when I am working on something unpaid which I care about very much, my children are 'in the way', and I get very frustrated. That's not how I want them, or me, to feel."

Yup, it's the curse of the cerebral smile

MrsMangoBiscuit Sat 03-Nov-12 08:03:55

The cost of childcare has been an issue with me going back to work. Once I have paid for childcare, and getting to work, I used to make about £8 a day. I couldn't do any more than 2 days a week as I would have been taxed, and therefore couldn't have afforded to keep my job. My work offers child care vouchers, but I can't use them, I'm not allowed. If I did more days, I would pay tax, and the vouchers would help, but if I take vouchers, I drop below minimum wage, so I'm not allowed. hmm

I think the vouchers scheme needs sorting out. As said above, the cap is ridiculous, but ruling out the use for those on lower salaries is ridiculous too. Childcare does need to be more affordable, but I don't think making it free is the right choice. Not making it compulsory will not mean everyone still gets a choice. For families where both parents are on low wages, if childcare is free, then both parents will feel they have to work. I agree with fatfloosie, it will undermine SAHPs.

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