by D.J. Webb
Women are forced out to work by house prices. This is the real subtext to absurd plans for the state to pay £2,000 to each working woman for childminding. With high taxes and council tax, high transport fees and high childminding bills, it is hard for women to make work pay — and the only result of their trying to do so is to push up the income on which mortgage loans are calculated, thus supporting the property Ponzi scheme.
There has been little net benefit to families from women’s entering the workplace in large numbers. Far from being a meaningful feminist cause to allow women into the work place, real feminists should have been arguing against property polices that have constantly pumped and primed the property market and forced women out to work, including those who don’t wish to work, thus palming their children off onto strangers.
Be that as it may, there seems no reason why the state should get involved with childcare. Absurdly, the reduction in universal child benefit implemented recently has been handed back — as if we have no public deficit to get down — to families in the form of this £2,000 allowance for childcare.
The government believes that the problem is that childminders are only allowed to look after 4 children, which has restricted their salaries to £13,000 a year, whereas in France most childminders have a diploma, look after 8 children, and earn £16,000 a year.
Look! Childminding is not a profession, and no qualifications are required. There is no need for children to be looked after by people with “diplomas”, or even looked after in nurseries. There should be no state limits on the number of children who can be cared for, no state stipulations as to the “nursery curriculum” (there shouldn’t be a curriculum at that age), and no state guidance as to the level of pay.
Quite simply: any mother should be entitled to open her own home to local children that she will look after for working mothers. There should be no assessment of the woman’s “risk” to children – this is another bureaucratic scam – and the general assumption that someone who is a mother (or even someone who is a woman) does not intend harm to children is likely to be just as protective of children’s welfare as the current system of bureaucratic checks — in neither case can abuse be ruled out, but the centuries-old assumption that a local woman known to the mother could be trusted to look after children is valid.
If there is a crisis in childcare, then we need to simply deregulate the “industry”. There should be no requirements for a home that offers childcare to reregister as a place of business for the local council’s purposes, and no attempts to put any other red tape in place, including medical checks, checks on the number of parking spaces for mothers dropping off children, or any other bureaucratic stipulations that would just stifle the enterprise.
We could even, if we saw that childcare was nationally scarce, allow mothers on benefits to make money by taking in children without declaring or reporting the money, and thus with no tax or benefit implications for the woman. People on long-term benefits are generally people who will never be of interest to employers, and so the notion that these people are “looking for work” or should be “forced into work” should be abandoned as unworkable. My proposal would lead to much more informal childcare becoming available, would be a cheap solution for the government, would have positive social welfare effects, including preventing children on benefits from being brought up in poverty because their mothers didn’t earn a living wage, and would be a genuine non-state solution.
The fact that the government is trying to determine how many children a carer be allowed to mind sums up the problem we are faced with. It should be a matter between the mother and her childminder.