Guest post from Nick Clegg: 'This is a watershed moment in the fight for a family-friendly Britain'
As the government's Children and Families Act gains Royal Assent, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg explains what the changes to parental leave, school meals and childcare will mean for families.
Deputy Prime Minister
Posted on: Thu 13-Mar-14 16:09:44
(96 comments )
It’s not often that government legislation kick starts a revolution. Yet our Children and Families Act, which has just received Royal Assent, does just that. It takes us another important step closer to ensuring the more family-friendly Britain that Mumsnet and Mumsnetters have been campaigning for for years.
This is a watershed moment. Every dot and comma of the Bill puts into law measures that will transform outdated attitudes and systems in Britain. We want to give families like yours more freedom and flexibility to make the choices you want and ensure every child gets the best possible start in life.
So now, thanks to these changes, our parental leave system will no longer be built on the 1950s assumption that when a child is born, mum stays home while dad goes out to work. We want to ensure that fewer women feel like they have to choose between their family and career and that more men can spend the extra time they want with their kids.
And, now, if you’re a parent who wants to give your children the best care and opportunities, you’ll have improved access to good, affordable childcare and greater support through extended flexible working. You’ll also have the guarantee of a free healthy meal for your child during those important first years at school.
This is about more than changing laws. It’s about changing a culture that for too long has dictated rather than supported families’ choices.
Take the coalition government’s introduction of shared parental leave for new parents. In the old system, after a child was born, fathers got two weeks for paternity leave and mothers could take up to a year.
Our parental leave system will no longer be built on the 1950s assumption that when a child is born, mum stays home while dad goes out to work. We want to ensure that fewer women feel like they have to choose between their family and career and that more men can spend the extra time they want with their kids.
But what about the many parents who want to share these traditional roles between them, so they can better meet the needs of their family?
From April 2015, this flagship Liberal Democrat policy will make it possible for new parents to carve up the leave they’re entitled to, with much greater flexibility.
So if you want to return to work before your year’s leave is up or go back to work for a particular project, you can do so without losing out. We want to ensure that all career options remain open to women after pregnancy. Your partner can stay at home and use the rest of the leave and pay, if that’s what they want.
If you choose, you can even take off chunks of time together. Once you return to work, you’ll also be able to benefit from the support of family and friends who want to help out and will have the same right to request flexible working arrangements as you do.
These measures have been pored over by analysts, businesses and the people they impact to ensure they’re easy to understand, implement and use.
We don’t want to create an unnecessary burden, particularly for small businesses. So we've listened and responded to the concerns of business and their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Businesses recognise the more diverse, productive and skilled workforce shared parental leave and flexible working can bring. I have seen some excellent examples of family friendly businesses through the Mumsnet Awards. I’d like to see many more in the future.
Above all else, we want a system that works for everyone, and one of the policies that will benefit almost every family with young children is our plan to provide free school meals to pupils in reception classes, year one and year two of primary school from September. Experts have been looking at this policy for years and universal free school meal pilots have shown the genuine difference this can make.
At a time when many are still struggling to make ends meet, it will save families hundreds of pounds per child every year. It’s also been shown to help children do better in English and Maths. On average, pupils in the pilot areas were two months ahead of their peers, with children from poorer backgrounds showing the biggest improvements. Children in the pilot areas were also shown to be more likely to eat vegetables and fewer snacks.
We know this approach helps. That’s why we’re working closely with schools and teachers across the country to meet our September launch.
Building a Britain fit for modern families has been one of my biggest ambitions, and that of the Liberal Democrats, in government. Today takes us another step closer to making that ambition a reality, laying the foundations for our family-friendly revolution.
Together, we’re building a modern Britain we can all be proud of, with a stronger economy and fairer society. So every British family, no matter what their circumstances, can prosper, and every child, whatever their background, can rise as high as their talents and hard work will take them.
By Rt. Hon Nick Clegg MP
It's a sad day for children with SEN. What a wasted opportunity and a huge waste of money.
This bill changes nothing except an increase in the ambiguity that has been used by Local Authorities to break both the law and deny children their human rights.
It ignores the well-evidenced problems in SEN system and pretends using different jargon will change lives.
Would Mr Clegg care to point out which of these areas are devolved and therefore won't apply in eg Scotland?
Please let's not knock Mr Clegg. He is going to look into further protection for all our future generations. I have faith in him and have no political leanings. Just our children's futures to be full and productive. But most of all safe. http://www.lbc.co.uk/cleggs-old-school-friend-gives-heartbreaking-account-of-abuse-85975
Mr Clegg, please could you explain what steps have been taken to ensure that schools (and children) won't lose out on Pupil Premium when the means-tested marker is removed from free school meals?
I'm not knocking Clegg. I am knocking the shameful process in which children with SEN have just had their futures gone from bad to worse with intense propaganda to fuel the change and no evidence-base whatsoever.
In fact the pathfinders haven't even started some of their pilots that have been approved as successful and rubberstamped through.
Additionally, those pathfinders have been found to be breaking the law and justifying it.
Why would I trust or believe anything Clegg says? My memory is not that short.
Giving free meals to children who don't need them while sending families to food banks.
Brought to you by the Lib Dems
Nick, ignore the critics. There is strong academic evidence that this policy will do a lot to raise educational standards and improve the health of children. Having to apply for Free School Meals means that 25% of eligible families currently fail to claim. This policy will make sure we can have a clear conscience as a nation about giving all our pupils the best start in life. If as a nation we can afford to feed hospital patients, which not all countries choose to do, then it's clear we can afford to feed young children at school as well. Yes, you rushed the policy a bit, and yes, the costings for installing and upgrading school kitchens weren't brilliant, but the important thing is this. BASED ON THE EVIDENCE, IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Keep going.
Nothing that will help working single parents then? Unless single parents will get twice the parental leave and annual leave allowance .
And what I will gain in 2yrs of free school meals for DC2 will be taken off us when they start charging for the CSA.
Unfortunately for 'Nick' it's these critics who'll lose him & his cronies the next election.
Free school meals for all - a waste of money that is sorely needed elsewhere.
However, shared, flexible parental leave is long overdue in its implementation. I doubt there will be much uptake though - too many families will be terrified of having the main breadwinner's earning potential damaged at a time when so many are scraping by on nothing. Legislation that flexible working and long parental leave are all very well, but the long hours culture and presenteeism will make it mostly irrelevant.
And while these new policies having nothing to do these issues - um, what is being done about SN children whose parents are having to fight tooth and claw to have even their most basic needs met and the many families who are slowly starving as their benefits are stripped one by one and no living wage for those lucky enough to be employed?
Yay to flexible parental leave! Really wish it was sooner!
Free school meals for all will go a little way to making up for stopping of Child Benefit for higher incomes. Now, let's talk DLA. When are my two children getting it back? Their disability hasn't vanished, nor their needs just because they're one year older.
Thanks for the free school meals! You've just saved me about £90 a month for my two...
Boffin you do know that a lot of hospital food is nothing but cheap clip don't you? The spend last time I heard was just over a pound per person per day
I strongly suggest anyone going into hospital orders one of the special diets since the daily spend can be up to 5 times
You do also know that malnutrition is a problem amongst long stay institutionaliser people (and I include hospitals in that)
So if we are now family friendly when can I have my child benefit back?
Our school meals were a plate of high salt high fat high sugar mass produced frozen slop I wouldn't feed them to my child if there was ANY alternative
Really a lot of families are shackled to needing 2 incomes by the dreadful increase in house prices you lot have presided over (certainly in the South) so maybe had you fixed that we could all afford to take some time off
Anything in family friendly Britain for the over 7s or once your kids hit year 3 do you cease to be a family?
As evidence for exactly how much the guest poster cares about families and the future I give you
Come on your memory really can't be that short
Nick,The mc solvent don't need a universal free dinner.reallocate to those in need
Stop faffing about inconsequentially
"I doubt there will be much uptake though - too many families will be terrified of having the main breadwinner's earning potential damaged at a time when so many are scraping by on nothing".
You forget that in an increasing number of households, mine included, the woman is the main breadwinner. The legislation is designed to reflect the archaic assumption that you just made.
Gutted beyond belief that this doesn't come in till 2015.... We could survive on my salary but not my DH's, so I have DC will be in f/t childcare much sooner than we would like.
In 41% of households, the woman earns more.
Great policy. Can't we just occasionally be glad when something is done that helps?
Mothers fathers and adopters, how utterly terrible
So adopters aren't mums and dads now, how offensive
Great that fostered children can stay with parents until 21, I thought this was the case anyway. I'm glad its changed.
The ban on smoking in cars when children are there also good.
God almighty, some of you lot are quick to moan. Don't you see this is all incremental? A work in progress? With regard to school dinners in particular, don't you realise that if they are only for 'the poor' or 'other people's children' they will remain crap in many schools, whereas if everyone has to eat them, the quality will have to pick up? Get on the bloody governing body and make a fuss about meals if you think they are no good. Harrass the companies who are doing a bad job. Reallocate contracts. Same with hospitals. Kick some ass if you think the meals are crap, take a bit of collective action. Stop bloody whinging and do something about it.
(Apologies in advance to those who may have been critical already having taken action and got frustrated).
Over here in the real world, the' right to ask' for flexible working hours doesn't mean much when the request is refused by our employers, or worse granted, but with no flexing of workload/performance targets, and an accompanying limitation in career prospects.
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