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Are childcare subsidies unfair to SAHM?

166 replies

MotherWol · 11/10/2022 15:38

There's a letter in today's Guardian: Give Parents a Real Choice on Childcare arguing that the current system of childcare subsidies discriminate against SAHMs and don't acknowledge that the work they do is economically valuable, and that there should be equal financial support offered to families with a SAHP.

The campaign group behind the letter, Mothers At Home Matter, are focused on the benefits that a SAHM (their wording) is hugely beneficial to families and society, but stigmatised by a society that values economic activity over everything else.

I don't know whether it's their exclusive focus on women staying at home with children that set my feminist alarm ringing, but my gut reaction is that choosing to stay home with your children isn't equally important at a societal level to working, however important it may be to to families at an individual level, and therefore it's fair enough that there's no SAHM subsidy.

We already have maternity rights to enable women to take spend the first year of their child's life with them, although those benefits could arguably be significantly better. Also arguably better support is needed for families of children with disabilities where returning to work isn't possible due to their child's needs, but in the absence of those factors, is it really fair to expect the state to meet the cost of women choosing not to return to work?

I realise this is a thorny issue, and I honestly don't believe all mothers should be in paid work immediately after having children - they should be free to make the choice that's right for their families. But if the consequence of being a SAHM means losing one income, is it fair to expect equal subsidy from the state to compensate for that?

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sjxoxo · 11/10/2022 15:42

I don’t know about all the politics but your phrase: “don't know whether it's their exclusive focus on women staying at home with children that set my feminist alarm ringing, but my gut reaction is that choosing to stay home with your children isn't equally important at a societal level to working”
…I disagree. It is very important but we do value economic activity above all else and therefore ignore what this contributes to society. Maybe in 50 years when the birth rate is so so so low and there’s no new employees coming into the workforce, no one to pay tax, no one to carry the young & old, we will realise their importance.

That’s never mentioned in these debates, but it’s the long game that’s important. No babies means no society. The modern way of family life does not encourage babies to be born. X

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gogohmm · 11/10/2022 15:57

I think the personal tax allowance of sahp's for under 12's or carers of older children/adults with disabilities should be fully transferable to a partner resident at the same address. This is the case in the USA for instance. You are simply allowing families to decide on how to manage the workload - if I could have worked 50/50 with my then h we would have had two personal tax allowances but because he had a job that was 50+ hours and dd has sen I stayed home so we only got one tax free allowance

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MotherWol · 11/10/2022 15:57

@sjxoxo but what are the social benefits of preschool age children having a SAHM? Is it primarily that pro-natalist policies encourage bigger families? Why campaign for women to stay home with children, rather than fathers/parents generally?

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AgentProvocateur · 11/10/2022 16:01

No, the state should not subsidise women (and it usually is women) to be a SAHP more than it already does by counting those years as fully paid up for NI purposes.

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26twentysix · 11/10/2022 16:07

Surely the issue is giving people the choice to work, i.e. childcare should be MORE heavily subsidised. You read on here all the time that 'it doesn't make sense for me to work', 'I can't afford to work', etc. Make childcare truly affordable.
You can still stay at home if you want to.

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aWorkOne · 11/10/2022 16:12

Women working outside of the home has more than just economic benefits to society. It benefits women as a class, as individuals, and it benefits children to have two parents who are financially independant.

I do not think it is fair or right to encourage women to stay at home and opt out of the workplace, with all of the opportunities for financial security and personal betterment that working brings.

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OhhhhhhhhBiscuits · 11/10/2022 16:15

Why does a SAHM need more than the universal 15 hours funded hours? If they are going to put the child in full time then they don't need to be a SAHM do they? Working parents need the 30 hours funded hours to help them work.

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froginawell · 11/10/2022 16:17

There is the alternative ' wages for housework' feminist argument.

That the work -child rearing, cooking, cleaning etc - needs to be done. By externalising these societal costs, you are forcing care-givers to often work two jobs.

If we accept that these roles are needed, and do not need to be performed by women (but often are)

Would it be sensible to state that they should be rewarded, what benefits may that result in for women as a class?

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Needmorelego · 11/10/2022 16:18

@OhhhhhhhhBiscuits the free 15 hours is meant to be for early years education not childcare though.. It's for the child. Not for the parents.

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bingbummy · 11/10/2022 16:19

As a SAHM no, I don't want money from the state for childcare, because we simply don't need it, and we have family to do it if we do.

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cc1997 · 11/10/2022 16:21

Needmorelego · 11/10/2022 16:18

@OhhhhhhhhBiscuits the free 15 hours is meant to be for early years education not childcare though.. It's for the child. Not for the parents.

In which case, why shouldn't the parent be saying something towards that? Ie, the SAHP needs to get a job to pay for it, the same as others do for their children.

15 hours free is enough if you're not working. Working parents should get more hours paid for.

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Needmorelego · 11/10/2022 16:28

@cc1997 the 15 hours is free early education and part of the school system (England anyway). My daughter's 15 hours were in the nursery class of the local primary - 3 hours a day in the morning.
If you are going to charge parents for that would you also charge for the non compulsory parts of Reception year?
Statutory school starting age is the term after a child turns 5. Reception starts at 4. Depending on their birthday Reception is only compulsory school age for either 1 or 2 terms or not at all.
Should Reception have to be paid for?

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Needmorelego · 11/10/2022 16:31

@cc1997 also no parents - whether working or not should be paying for the 15 hours. It is free for ALL children (England anyway). So I am not sure what you meant by paying for it "the same as others do". A person could be earning a million pounds a year but their children are still entitled to 15 hours of free early education.
If working parents are paying for those 15 hours they are being scammed by somebody.

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MrsBennetsPoorNerves · 11/10/2022 16:43

I agree, OP.

There is no clear societal benefit to having mothers parents SAH, even though there are obviously benefits to individual families where that model best suits their particular lifestyle choices.

I don't really see any reason why the state should offer extra economic support over and above what is already on offer with NI contributions paid etc, whereas there are clear social benefits to subsidising childcare that enables both parents to stay economically active. I do agree that there should be vastly enhanced financial support for carers, but that's a separate issue.

What is worrying about that particular group is that it isn't even about stay at home parents, but rather stay at home mothers. Would they be in favour of financial support for fathers to stay at home, I wonder?

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sjxoxo · 11/10/2022 16:55

MotherWol · 11/10/2022 15:57

@sjxoxo but what are the social benefits of preschool age children having a SAHM? Is it primarily that pro-natalist policies encourage bigger families? Why campaign for women to stay home with children, rather than fathers/parents generally?

The social benefits are that in the long term the birth rate would very likely be higher. I think that’s difficult to put into context in these debates because that’s something which is of very very long term consequence, to the whole of society. The current birth rate we have in the UK and the majority of the west means our society is not sustainable as it is. Women are overridingly the primary carer at home, and are always the one that gives birth - so any policy that encourages women to have babies is important in the very long term, to all of us. Encouraging men to participate in family life is of course important and the split of household labour should be up to the families to decide, but It remains that giving birth and those early months are far more ‘costly’ to mums than they are to dads. There’s no way that can really be alleviated as men can’t give birth so I think a system that promotes equality, not in an economic sense, but recognises the value of our different roles & what we all bring to society is the ideal. I think that will never happen until a few hundred years time when there’s not enough young people and we realise the lack of value we have placed on women becoming & being mothers.

I think the years that are relevant here are the very early years. Once children are at school I think there is of course an advantage to families having financial stability and that likely means two working parents. x

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oneuptwodown · 11/10/2022 16:56

At the root of this is the age-old question of whether young children being cared for by a parent is better for the child than it being cared for by a paid stranger (and, therefore, society when taken collectively). Goodness knows that's a hornets' nest.

The argument that women who work are still mothers 100% of the time is idiotic: of course they are, just like they're still wives or girlfriends or sisters or daughters or friends or runners or feminists or whatever. Nobody sheds their identity just because they're doing something else. I've never understood the point in making this point.

But it's nonsense to suggest that a woman at work is parenting at the same time. No woman is Schroedinger's mum. Somebody else is doing the active parenting of that child while the woman is actively doing something else.

So, arguably, a parent who is earning money while someone else is doing the parenting should receive less of a subsidy for parenting than the parent who cannot earn money because they are actively parenting. It's grossly unfair to financially remunerate parents who are already being financially remunerated by working while parents who are receiving nothing continue to receive nothing.

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BlueRibbonPen · 11/10/2022 16:58

gogohmm · 11/10/2022 15:57

I think the personal tax allowance of sahp's for under 12's or carers of older children/adults with disabilities should be fully transferable to a partner resident at the same address. This is the case in the USA for instance. You are simply allowing families to decide on how to manage the workload - if I could have worked 50/50 with my then h we would have had two personal tax allowances but because he had a job that was 50+ hours and dd has sen I stayed home so we only got one tax free allowance

This

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Shamoo · 11/10/2022 16:58

All parents receive certain support - maternity payments, child benefit, free childcare hours - the amount being dependent only on family income. So SAHP do get some support from the state already, like other parents. And it is disingenuous to suggest that they get no support.

I can see no reason why a family who then make a choice to have the woman work be a stay at home should get more. It’s a private choice that needs to be made in the context of your family set up. (don’t start me on the sexism of it being women only - do two mother families get twice? 😂)

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lannistunut · 11/10/2022 17:00

No, because parenting is not childcare.

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lannistunut · 11/10/2022 17:03

I think there is clear social benefit for parents not to both have to work full time to afford basic standards of living. The stress many families are under is damaging to children. But that would not be helped by paying rich people who are already at home more money to stay there - what we need is higher incomes and/or lower living costs brought about by all sorts of changes. Basically we need a Eurpoean model!

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Choconut · 11/10/2022 17:04

aWorkOne · 11/10/2022 16:12

Women working outside of the home has more than just economic benefits to society. It benefits women as a class, as individuals, and it benefits children to have two parents who are financially independant.

I do not think it is fair or right to encourage women to stay at home and opt out of the workplace, with all of the opportunities for financial security and personal betterment that working brings.

Try telling a child with autism that their mum is better off at work then being with them. I promise you it doesn't benefit all children or all mothers. What you mean is you think it benefits you and can't seem to see beyond that. My mum didn't work or only worked small part time jobs and i thought it was wonderful, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

I don't think SAHM should get free childcare though, that's the whole point of being a SAHM to me, I think better to make it more available to those who want or have to work.

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MrsBennetsPoorNerves · 11/10/2022 17:07

But it's nonsense to suggest that a woman at work is parenting at the same time.

I guess that all depends on whether you think parenting only consists of providing hands-on childcare, or whether you think that it encompasses wider responsibilities such as putting a roof over their heads and food on the table, not to mention all of the other things they need. Personally, I view childcare as just one aspect of parenting - you would be a pretty poor parent, after all, if you failed to provide for your child's material needs.

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MrsBennetsPoorNerves · 11/10/2022 17:11

sjxoxo · 11/10/2022 16:55

The social benefits are that in the long term the birth rate would very likely be higher. I think that’s difficult to put into context in these debates because that’s something which is of very very long term consequence, to the whole of society. The current birth rate we have in the UK and the majority of the west means our society is not sustainable as it is. Women are overridingly the primary carer at home, and are always the one that gives birth - so any policy that encourages women to have babies is important in the very long term, to all of us. Encouraging men to participate in family life is of course important and the split of household labour should be up to the families to decide, but It remains that giving birth and those early months are far more ‘costly’ to mums than they are to dads. There’s no way that can really be alleviated as men can’t give birth so I think a system that promotes equality, not in an economic sense, but recognises the value of our different roles & what we all bring to society is the ideal. I think that will never happen until a few hundred years time when there’s not enough young people and we realise the lack of value we have placed on women becoming & being mothers.

I think the years that are relevant here are the very early years. Once children are at school I think there is of course an advantage to families having financial stability and that likely means two working parents. x

From an environmental point of view, I don't think we want to encourage more people to have more children, do we? The planet cannot sustain it. Much better that we lose our prejudices around immigration and accept that there will need to be more immigration to sustain services in the longer term.

And no, I absolutely wouldn't support any policy designed to promote the role of women as baby making machines. Quite the opposite.

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SaltyCrisp · 11/10/2022 17:11

my gut reaction is that choosing to stay home with your children isn't equally important at a societal level to working

My gut reaction is that it is equally important. I don't understand this desperation to get mothers away from their very young children. Most won't earn enough to be net contributors. I do understand that some mothers want or need to work and they should be supported but having worked in some very good nurseries, they're not places I would choose to leave my child in.

SAHMs should be able to transfer their tax free allowance to their husbands/partners.

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MrsBennetsPoorNerves · 11/10/2022 17:15

Choconut · 11/10/2022 17:04

Try telling a child with autism that their mum is better off at work then being with them. I promise you it doesn't benefit all children or all mothers. What you mean is you think it benefits you and can't seem to see beyond that. My mum didn't work or only worked small part time jobs and i thought it was wonderful, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

I don't think SAHM should get free childcare though, that's the whole point of being a SAHM to me, I think better to make it more available to those who want or have to work.

I think children with disabilities should be treated as a separate category, and appropriate support should be given to children with caring responsibilities.

As far as children without disabilities are concerned, I think the research has established pretty clearly that there are no real benefits to having a SAHP, so it is essentially a question of lifestyle choices for the parents. A perfectly valid choice if it suits them both well, but not one that we need to support as a society in my view.

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