FORGOTTEN FAMILIES

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Last week’s announcement from the Government that it is bringing forward plans to offer 30 hours a week free childcare for children aged 3-4 year olds was welcomed by many.

Sophie KathirI was thrilled that the Conservatives appeared to have listened to all parents up and down the country about childcare costs and, as a young mother, whose little monster is turning three this year (where has the time flown?), I was delighted that I would be able to use this new policy. It would mean that my husband, who had to give up his job to look after both our children, would have time to go to interviews and be employed again!

Woohoo! Right?! Well, not exactly. As I read the childcare policy in detail, my delighted state was diminished to: “What the hell?” I am not on low income and not claiming any benefits but am still struggling to make ends meet feeding a family of four on my income alone, so we are one of the forgotten families. Here’s why:

  1. This proposal is for families where BOTH parents work – well, with my husband not working and no help with childcare, it looks like my husband will be unemployed until my son starts school, since he won’t be able to attend any interviews
  2. It looks like this will come into place in 2016 – even if my husband finds work now (yeah right!) I will need to pay for three quarters of my son’s childcare costs plus my daughter’s after-school care!
  3. ‘Tax free system’ where every time we put money aside for childcare, the Government will pay a proportion of it too – first of all, for me to put money aside in this system, I need to have money left after my living expenses in London and with salaries not equalling the cost of living, I won’t be using that system any time soon! (How are we still paid basic salaries when the cost of living is sky rocketing, I have no idea – next blog alert!)
  4. Only 30 hours - although when I first heard of it I was ecstatic, thinking about me working 40 hours a week and spending roughly ten hours commuting, that still means I need to pay for an extra 20 hours each week! MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, show me the MONEY!
  5. Only for working people - it seems that they have ignored young people who are parents. As someone who went to uni when my firstborn was only three months, I struggled a lot with paying my childminder when Student Finance England didn’t pay me for a good four months, meaning I had to choose between paying rent or paying the childminder, which in turn resulted in me skipping lectures so I could stay home to look after my daughter! If they want to encourage people back to work, they need to think about those young mums who want to study in order to work – but again young people are ignored!! Young student mums need childcare which is not only affordable but flexible too as some lectures can be as late as 7pm! If you were a young mum like me, with no family/friend support, then you’d have no choice but to take your child with you (thankfully, I never had those late hour lectures!)

David Cameron says: “My message is clear. This government is on the side of working people – helping them get on and supporting them at every stage of life.” I would ask the Prime Minister exactly how he is helping here, when this policy benefits parents that can afford the luxury of them both working. What about families like mine who are finding it difficult to deal with the everyday cost of living because only one person is earning?

My husband cannot find a job because there are no jobs out there which could fit our family needs and, because he has been unemployed due to childcare reasons, is finding it difficult to get back onto the job market.

We try to support our kids’ dreams but what about my husband’s dreams which have been shattered by childcare costs and knowing that the government won’t be helping our little family! And what about my dreams of getting a Masters degree and therefore furthering my career so I can support my family better, buy a house and enjoy yearly holidays and having a nice saving pot when I retire?

Perhaps we can start to achieve our dreams in two years’ time when my son starts school but there are too many forgotten families out there whose lives depend on whether or not they can afford childcare and who will not benefit from the Government’s new policy.