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Live webchat about women and work with Maria Miller, Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, TODAY, Thursday 22 November, 1pm to 2pm

(335 Posts)
FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 20-Nov-12 16:28:42

Hello, we're very pleased to announce that Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Minister for Women and Equalities will be joining us for a live webchat on Thursday 22 Nov between 1pm and 2pm.

Maria has been the MP for Basingstoke since 2005 and has previously held shadow education and family briefs. Before entering Parliament, Maria worked in advertising. She is married with three children.

This is Maria's second Mumsnet webchat.

Maria is keen to hear your thoughts on how to get more women into work, with a particular focus on getting the right childcare in place for women. She also wants to hear your thoughts on how the government can make workplaces more equal environments, where women can better realise their potential.

Do join us for the webchat. As ever, if you can't make it, please post up your advance questions here.



ATourchOfInsanity Wed 21-Nov-12 16:30:48

Lady Stark has pointed out the topic in the news this week - your apparent belief that 'people' would rather a drop in the abortion limit to 20 weeks.

I would urge you to read the many threads on the topic on here, a predominately female led website. When your colleague suggested he thought 12 weeks was his idea of appropriate there were some very sad stories voiced on here with very real situations. As I am sure you are aware, most abortions take place even before 12 weeks. Therefore you are attacking the minority who have no other choice and are usually advised a termination for medical reasons. I urge you to look at the science and figures for WHY women wait to, and past 20 weeks for an abortion. You would only serve to cut off the most needy women in society by restricting this freedom of choice.

To me it is an advantage to be living in a country where people from other countries can still find refuge to have an abortion that may save their lives. The recent case in Ireland proves that point. This also affects husbands. Husbands who may be left without a wife for children they already have, if they die due to lack of choice. Financially many families can fall below the breadline in these dire economic times and perhaps it is not your choice to force them further into debt?

My question to you would be, have you actually met, and talked frankly with any women who have had to make the terrible decision to terminate past 20 weeks? If not, do you intend to, to make your opinions more rounded?

LineRunner Wed 21-Nov-12 16:32:41

And what ATouchOfInsanity just said and asked. Thank you.

Solopower1 Wed 21-Nov-12 17:12:11

Maria, a lot of grandparents are willing to help look after our children's children, but when we are working full time ourselves, this is impossible.

How will your government make it easier for us to go part-time or work flexitime in order for us to help the next generation?

Also, with people being forced to retire later, how will you stop older people like me clogging up the system and sitting in jobs that younger people need more and would do better for less?

I would like to remain economically active for as long as possible, but as I get older, I would like to see my role more as a support for my adult children, so that they can get on the employment ladder and establish their careers. At present, I can't do this.

Ahardyfool Wed 21-Nov-12 17:13:26

I am a mother of 4 children. I worked full time until a couple of weeks ago when I threw in the towel because I could not afford to work the hours required and pay for adequate childcare and transport for my children. The tax credit subsidy for more than one child only covers care for my 3 year old - the rest (childminder for after school for my 9 year old) comes from my wage. My eldest two children have to fend for themselves between 4pm and 5pm as I would be into minus income if I paid for them to be supervised too. As a result, my son was excluded from school 2 weeks ago (just for a day) for behaviour after homework club ended. This is the point at which I said enough is enough, I cannot do both. I now cannot pay my rent.

Inidentally, my middle son is not paid for in any way whatsoever by his father. The CSA have been unable to help there. My other childrens' fathers pay the very minimum and the systems in place ALLOW THEM TO GET AWAY WITH THIS. I, on the other hand, work day in day out, let down my colleagues and children on a daily basis by trying to be all things to all people.

I had to leave my children alone during the holidays some of the time because I couldn't afford to pay for care at approx. 4x£40 per day minimum.

I have a partner and we would love to marry and live together but we cannot afford to. How is that? It is marginally better for us financially to survive as two lone parents than as a family unit, and yet the family unit would undoubtedly be better for my children - two of whom have behavioural issues due to poor/non existent relationships with their fathers. Your policies ensure we are caught in this trap.

I privately rent by the way, because apparently to wait for a council house means we could be housed literally anywhere and one of the things that I think will help prevent my children becoming products of their rather dismal upbringing and keep them within the law, etc. etc. is stability and consistency. So, we screw ourselves financially by paying extortionate rental every month so the children can remain stable and in school and near family.

As far as I can see, it is lose lose for families like me despite a strong work ethic and a deep regard for bringing up decent citizens in my children.

I'm at home at the moment, doing the school run and working on my CV. If I get a job, then I'll be back into the fire from the frying pan, or vice versa. However, my question is; do you have any useful solutions for a mother like me?

Xenia Wed 21-Nov-12 17:25:35

I agree with the early question on the thread - why is this assumed to be a women's issue. I earned 10x my children's father and even back 20 years ago childcare was something both of us sorted out and there was no assumption I would do it or fix it up and he did not "help" me but was a true 50./50 partner. Surely by 2012 the same kind of fairness in relationships can be achieved.

The Tories are doing quite well in giving father's a right although many of us would have preferred a right for men which you "use it or lose it" principle to force men into it and help eradicate sexism.

As a free market libertarian what I regard as most helpful would be very low flat taxes and no market distortions of very long paid maternity leaves which ghetto-ise women into having sexist roles at home - the 6 weeks at 90% pay and after that it falls off a cliff below subsistence level is fine. Abolish all child b benefit and child tax credits, limit much much more than the £500 a week new benefits cap particularly housing benefit so the market can decide wages not the state subsidise low wages. These are the ways to help the country and working parents.

Obviously we want to ensure the cabinet is at least 50% female in leading roles if not 80% if the best people are female. The numbers of women in leading positions are absolutely appalling for Thatcher's children, putting so many women off by such a poor example.

Many many more women on all financial committees, Bank of England and the like . The country has loads of great female economists.

Bonsoir Wed 21-Nov-12 17:51:03

If governments want to get more women and in particular more mothers into paid work outside the home, they need to ensure that women make a profit from working once they have paid for the proper outsourcing (ie reasonable quality) of the unpaid work that they were doing previously at home, principally housekeeping and childcare (but perhaps also care for extended family) and for the extra costs that arise from working, principally transport and clothing.

This will require tax breaks and/or state subsidies.

TheCrackFox Wed 21-Nov-12 18:00:38

Why aren't local authorities legally compelled to offer before and after school provision?

There is no breakfast club where I live.

The after school club has a waiting list of over a year.

Childminders cost £6.50 per hour, per child.

I live in a major city and it is a joke.

LineRunner Wed 21-Nov-12 18:08:53

And can we assume that as more schools 'opt out' of Local Authority control they will be able legally to un-Extend what were our Extended Schools?

Meglet Wed 21-Nov-12 19:36:38

My question;

As the government seem to be determined to force single parents back to work regardless of the toll it will take on their family or health what are you planning to do to ensure employers offer flexi-time / working from home / double annual leave quota (if the father is not around) / unpaid emergency leave for these single parents when their children are sick or have problems as teenagers? At the moment it seems that employees rights are being taken away, not improved.

I have worked part time since my DC's (now 6 & 4) were small and like linerunner I have health problems because of it and we only have my mother for back up, she is 66 and will probably not be able to help much when they are teenagers.

This government is making life harder for women, the removal of child benefit and charging domestic violence victims to use the CSA are not actions of a government that is interested in equality.

Solopower1 Wed 21-Nov-12 19:52:51

Maria, how would you make sure every child had access to affordable before and after school care?

scottishmummy Wed 21-Nov-12 20:07:48

maria i want govt to support working parents and compel schools to have after school, and holiday provision to help working parents.would you consider semesterisation to space out the school terms to reduce long summers?

cant participate as i am at work but will catch up later

AgnesDiPesto Wed 21-Nov-12 23:15:49

I had to give up a legal career because the government will not invest in good quality early autism intervention which is commonplace in other countries like USA - the UK insist on using cheap eclectic approaches in mainstream settings which have no evidence base whatsoever and in my son's case delivered not one single positive outcome in 2 years despite full-time 1:1 and a statement of SEN.

The only choice I had was to either let my son with autism be consigned to the gutter or give up my career, pay privately for training (in applied behaviour analysis, the proven most effective autism intervention for very young children with autism), and home educate him. Obviously I chose the latter - the good news is my son now speaks, is making good progress and is thriving on an ABA programme won (after a 2 year fight) at tribunal and is able at 6 to attend mainstream school part-time with his ABA staff.

The bad news is my husband and I cannot revive our careers as we still need to drive him 40 miles to therapy daily, there is no legal aid left anyway so little use for ex legal aid lawyers, my husband's business was in tatters after a year of home educating and he can't easily revive it in a recession. I managed to get a job in the public sector for alot less money and 0.5 of week, and I intended to increase my hours when my son's tribunal was over but am now stuck on 0.5 due to the government's public sector job & pay freeze (despite being one of the most productive members of staff). I cannot get another better paid job which is suitably flexible (I had to turn down 2 other jobs and battle this employer to be able to make it fit with my caring responsibilities).

My husband and I earn 1/3 of what we did before we had to take on a carer role as we both had to cut our hours and change jobs. I used to pay lots of taxes but I now take more out of the system through carers allowance and tax credits than I put in. We cannot afford to pay into pensions so in old age we will be on the breadline because despite working over 100 hours a week at times as a carer, this does not entitle us to anymore than the basic state pension. We will probably still be caring for our son in our 80's. Our other two sons will have to fend for themselves without any parental financial support or time.

How can two graduates in good professional jobs have to give up so much just because like 1 in 100 other families out there we happened to have a child with autism? He is not even at the severest end of the spectrum. Why should this be so catastrophic to our work lives and finances when there are well proven interventions out there which should have been available in a specialist setting with appropriately trained staff and put into place immediately the need arose to allow me to keep my job?

And please don't tell me about how you are expanding mainstream nursery places for disabled 2 year olds because there is no evidence for this model for autism. The evidence is for intensive specialist therapy of 30-40 hours a week.

And you should also make sure self employed people can deduct childcare fees from their gross profits

bzzbee Wed 21-Nov-12 23:46:01

I wholeheartedly agree with the comments that the constant assertion of childcare as a "woman's issue" is backward.
Has Maria any ideas on how to address this, as it seems to be the bigger problem. I work in the City, have done for 20 years, so am fairly, ahem, mature, and all my male peers have stay at home wives "supporting" their careers. It's a vicious circle as the men in this set-up are better positioned to advance career-wise because they never have to take time off (or shift focus) for domestic or childcare issues.
I am a huge advocate of the new paternity laws, but children are dependent for 16 years and this legislation only covers the first year. We need to make men more like women and focus on this instead of the same old lines about women/workforce/childcare.
To make two things equal, it is often more expedient to tweak both rather than only one, and it seems to me there has been far too much focus on family issues being the domain of the woman, instead of equally shared.

princessnumber2 Thu 22-Nov-12 07:58:16

Sorry BIWI. Might not have DH for long sad

BIWI Thu 22-Nov-12 08:17:37

Ah. Sorry to hear that, princessnumber2 sad

Bonsoir Thu 22-Nov-12 09:31:26

bzzbee - do you think that the argument that it is "unfair" to City workers who do not have a FT SAHP to support them and allow them to work all the hours that be is one that the Government ought to be addressing?

Personally, I think that if you want that kind of career it is up to you to sort out your domestic arrangements (two nannies and a housekeeper, if need be, to replace a SAHP). I think the Government needs to focus on lower earners.

Xenia Thu 22-Nov-12 09:47:46

Women also need to ensure they do not accept sexism at home. I certainly even 20 years ago would not have done for one single day. As I earned 10x what he did of course that is easier but we both worked full time with 5 children. I do know many men in the City whose wives work. It is very common.

I presume Nick Clegg's lawyer wife earns more than he does. Cherie Blair was a great example too although of course I would prefer the cabinet were packed with women.

Then new paternity laws will be good.

What I would liek the Government to do is real cuts, not tiny messing around playing cuts; much much smaller state, much lower flat tax and abolish CGT, IHT and stamp duty, VAT on everything and merge tax and NI and abolish all tax reliefs for everything, childbenefit and tax credits to go too so the free market can really start to operate rather than have the low paid propped up by the state through credits and housing benefit. The new cap at the amazingly high rate of £500 a week is just a joke. Far far too high.

I am repeating the same piont as a lot of others, particularly those of us who are high earning successful women or those who out earn men... child care is not and never has been a woman's issue. Nick Clegg as much as Miriam Gonzalez has to arrange childcare. Women who tolerate sexist men are idiots. let men fix babysitting, nannies and the like. They have arms. They can speak. Stop suggesting women fix childcare. Children have two parents.

thereonthestair Thu 22-Nov-12 09:59:38

Hi. As a mother of a disabled child I have managed to carry on working in a professional field but only because I am self employed, although legally I am also a "worker". In respect of the childcare I would love to get more support, but like Agnes I can't because the NHS cannot provide the therapy and appointments on the same days of the week. As such even if I wanted to I cannot work in a conventional part time job, because I need to be able to drop everything on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays (variously depending on the appointments). As such I couldn't do a conventional part time job. But as I am self employed I get no tax relief on the childcare I do use. My DH does but as I understand it if we had another child we wouldn't be able to share the benefits of the new flexible maternity/parental leave as these are employment rights not workers rights.

I pay a lot of tax, and am very lucky I have the financial choice to do this. I know so many people who don't because of difficulties with caring for disabled children. I contribute more than I would receive if I gave it all up and went onto benefits/carers allowance etc. But I believe i am penalised for having a disabled child as there is no childcare who can cover the medical needs effectively, I get no tax relief on the amounts I pay for therapists to cover the treatments the NHS can't provide when i have to pay for them so as to avoid giving up work, as I just can't take the NHS appointments all the time and I get no parental leave as i am a worker not an employee. If you want to keep people like me in work and contributing to society have you got any plans to extend family rights to workers, parental leave rights to allow my husband who is an employee to take bits of time off to allow him to liase with the NHS when they cannot seem to make the appointments on a consistent day of the week, or tax relief when we have to in effect employ someone else to provide therapy/childcare/support so the wheels don't come off. If you don't have these plans do you accept that it may in efefct make many more people like me (and Agnes) give up work when we have much to contribute to society?

Ahardyfool Thu 22-Nov-12 10:06:01

Xenia - do you think that abolishment of Housing Benefit will, in reality force rental fees down? Or, in fact, do you think that Utopian thinking in the face of inherent human greed will fail to deliver? I imagine that many landlords simply cannot face the thought of a reduction in their income by slashing the amount they charge in property rental to their tenants, in much the same way high earners resent high taxation. And if not present and current greed, then historic greed which has seen over speculation to accumulate and 2nd, owners finding they cannot cover their loans and mortgages without charging high rentals.

Even if things did change over time, for a period you would see families suddenly homeless I'm sure.

Bonsoir Thu 22-Nov-12 10:23:50

The cost of housing in (parts of) the UK is out of control. Housing benefit is just one tiny part of the equation.

slug Thu 22-Nov-12 10:28:09

Hi Maria

Are you aware of the Turnaway project? It is a longtitudinal study looking at the outcomes for women who both have abortions and those who are turned away and forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. The initial findings have shown that women who get the abortion they want have far better outcomes both financially and emotionally as opposed to those who are denied and, statistically, are more likely to suffer mental and physical health problems, are more likely to live in poverty and on state assistance. In the light of actual research (as opposed to woolly minded wishful thinking) are you going to reassess your position on the 12 week abortion limit you appear to be wedded to?

In connection to this, the 12 week limit is one that seems to stem from religious doctrine. Given that the Church of England have refused to ordain women bishops, do you think trying to appeal to the Religious vote is a poor way to develop policy, especially given the drift away from the church and the example of the recent American elections.

Now that we know that a block of seats in the upper house of our parliament is explicitly denied to women, what are you, as the minister for women going to do to address this blatant discrimination at the highest levels of government?

Ahardyfool Thu 22-Nov-12 10:37:32

I have a question from DP too:

Isn't it time that religion is separated from law and Government in this country - particularly since the position of the Church of England is largely discriminatory and massively unrepresentative?

TessBob Thu 22-Nov-12 11:06:00

My husband temporarily reduced his hours to a four day week with our first child (now three), as I had post-natal depression. Work were supportive. Or so it seemed. He has since been overlooked on two promotions he was ideally positioned for, and he daren't now ask for any support - not even a day working at home if our sons (we know have a baby too) are ill.

How will we make the breakthrough from the theory of more equal parental rights and support for working parents to the reality of it? Does the law need to have more teeth with employers?

(I hasten to add that my career has been blitzed since children - and I was the main breadwinner too. My 'women-friendly' industry is anything but.)

I have extremely talented friends who are even considering leaving the country to find better working conditions for parents. Netherlands and France are on the list. This is brain-drain. On this point I am embarrassed to be British.

Xenia Thu 22-Nov-12 11:10:37

I certainly agree with Ahardy re religion but no Government will do it so it's not likely to be put up as a plan. Too many sharp elbowed too stingy to pay school fee housewives not prepared to lose their church school. Cameron who could afford to relieve the state of the cost of his children's education as many of us do, burdens the state and uses a state school place.

Ahardy, on the question to me on housing benefit. Loads of landlords will have nothing to do with housing benefit tenants. Landlords make about 6% profit on rent on a buy to let and often much less when maintenance is taken into account. My point was one that when the state intervens with a massive subsidy of the low paid then employers keep wage rates down as they know the full timer on £13k a year minimm wage will get al oad of housing benefit up to £20k a year and tax credits.

My calculations the other day of single full time working mother in London living in Watford earning £50k, pays £14k tax, £14k full time nursery place in say Watford, £14k repayment mortgage on £150k flat plus her transport and is in pretty much the same financial position as her benefits claiming twin. The issue of how you ensure the poor are not left in dormitories like the 21 person boarding house my grandfather shared in 1901 with food kitchens to ensure benefits is not cushy whilst saying to the £50k woman work very hard and yet you are no better off than your non working twin is very difficult but must be tackled. If we make work pay that will help. Another idea woudl be a universal payment of £10k perhaps to everyone over 18 in work or not so that you keep that even if you do work and just pay 20% tax and NI flat tax on your earnings so no incentive to skive. Abolish tax credits, all tax reliefs, benefits. If £10k is not enough you move where it is or share with 3 other women.

CaramelisedOnion Thu 22-Nov-12 11:22:46

1. I agree with those who have stated that it would be helpful if there was more subsidised childcare for the under 3s. I'm grateful for working tax credits, don't get me wrong, but if (god forbid) I were to lose my job I only have 1 month to find another one (because I have paid out of my savings so that my nursery fees are always a month ahead) because once you lose your job, you lose your working tax credits. This would mean that my son would likely lose his nursery place. If the 15 free hours a week was available to all parents after SMP is over then this would remove this issue. I'm a single parent who works 30 hours over 4 days. I receive no maintenance as my son's father is absent completely.

2. I agree with the "use it or lose it" approach to parental rights stated byanother poster. If those who are resident parents completely ignored the existence of their child for 6 days, never mind 6 months, 6 years etc then the child concerned would be taken into care. The rights are surely children's rights - the right not to be disrupted, to understand what is going on in their life, to consistency - not the right of a parent who suddenly decides after long periods of total disinterest that they fancy checking in on that kid they had x number of years ago. In my opinion, parents have responsibilites, CHILDREN have rights.

3.The idea of reducing the legal abortion rate to 12 weeks is surely ludicrous - as many have stated it is only at the 20 week scan that certain fetal abnormalities can be detected. I really hope this does not happen as it would (in my opinion) be an enormous step backwards.

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