Here’s my letter to David Cameron asking him to value the home, and mothers in particular.
Dear Mr Cameron,
Re.: Mothers at home do valuable work
I am writing to implore you to consider the hundreds of thousands of mothers who do essential, worthwhile work in their homes, caring for the children who represent the future of Britain. What follows is an impassioned plea, from a mother of several children who feels she is invisible to her government.
Mothers who choose not to work are currently penalised in the tax system – tax is deducted on an individual basis, but benefits are awarded on a household basis – so the family with two working parents is entitled to double the tax-free allowance, whilst potentially remaining eligible for identical additional support. We do not want more free childcare while our children are small, we want to stay at home and care for them. Rather than pressuring us to work, how about offering some of that childcare funding direct to us, since we are (for the most part) the best equipped for the task?
Child Benefit has already had the heart ripped out of it: introduced expressly for the purpose of acknowledging the worthwhile work which mothers carry out (and to free them from total dependence on someone else’s income), it used to be given for second and subsequent children but is now given for the first two or three, if you’re lucky. This smacks of social engineering.
Furthermore how is it right that we should be penalised financially through the new Universal Credit system for choosing not to work once our children reach the age of 5? Many of us feel strongly that it is detrimental to our children for them to spend their breakfasts and early evenings in “wrap-around care” and only spend time with their parents at weekends. “Go out to work or else I’ll cut your Child Benefit,” is the clear message – more social engineering.
Children do not suddenly cease to need love and time with their mothers at five, and in fact as they enter full-time schooling they often need it more than ever. Teenagers face years of turmoil, and quite simply need a parent to be there for them. The move outlined in Universal Credit to reduce or remove credits once children turn five is also a giant slap in the face to the rapidly-growing number of families choosing to forgo their second income in order to home educate their children. These families provide bespoke education to tens of thousands of children, often with severe learning difficulties which would cost the government huge sums in appropriate state provision.
In addition we object to the label “hard-working families” being constantly applied narrowly to families where (it is suggested) both parents work all the hours they can, so they are both too worn out to shop, cook, clean and care for their children. I respectfully suggest that a family with one income and one parent at home to provide care is a very desirable thing. It is actually a full-time job keeping a home well, although Conservative policies at least seem to have forgotten this, preferring that parents should pass their children like ships in the night, eat ready-meals and pay a cleaner if they can afford to.
Will you and your cabinet colleagues please re-instate Child Benefit as a non-means-tested payment, consider more creative ways to share the early years funding, and halt the tax credit changes which will penalise mothers once their youngest child reaches five?
I understand that the nation’s finances were in dire straits, for multiple reasons, but I ask you to find the money somewhere else. Mothers are not cogs of industry, so please recognise and value us for what we really are. We are caring and hard-working people with a truly great aspiration – to raise the future generation, and to raise them well.
I eagerly await your response.
Photo: EPA/ANDY RAIN via Creative Commons