Half of single parents borrow money to cover childcare

Labour Party

A report by Gingerbread, the advice and support charity for single parents, has found that almost half of single parents (47%) have been forced to borrow money from family, friends or the bank in order to cover their child care costs within the last two years.
The report found that the Government’s claim that Universal Credit will make work pay is totally flawed.

In its release the organisation stated: “The report also shows that a decade old cap on the childcare costs parents can claim back means that, even with the extra help set to be rolled out under Universal Credit – where support will rise from 70 to 85 per cent of costs – for many single parents it still won’t make financial sense to work more hours.”

We know the financial strain many families face when it comes to childcare costs, but for single parents the high cost of childcare could force them out of the job market altogether- which is the reverse effect of what is intended.

In addition, it’s terrible to think that some single parents, in particular, have to turn to friends and family in order to help them cover costs, another sign that they are not receiving the support they need in order to stay in the job market.

The expense of childcare costs can be crippling for families and the financial burden is often very stressful.

Although low income parents will be able to claim up to 85% of childcare costs under Universal Credit this is capped at a limit which has remained unchanged since 2005. However, in the last 10 years, the report finds that the average cost of a part time nursery place has increase by around 70%.

Some of the respondents when interviewed shared some shocking experiences which saw them forced to ‘beg the child-minder’, ‘raid savings’, ‘take out a credit union loan’ or even ‘go without food’. Some felt that their experiences of parenthood was affected as a result and over a third said they used at least three different forms of childcare.

Many said childcare affected their ability to combine work with parenthood. Almost a third said they would work for longer with better childcare, while others described a ‘patchwork’ of assistance including not just schools, nurseries and child-minders but after-school and breakfast clubs, babysitters, grandparents and friends.

Supporting parents back into the workforce is paramount. For many parents having some form of paid employment, whatever it is, is fulfilling but for parents returning to employment, especially single parents, who may have taken a relatively long leave of absence they should be supported and encouraged not faced with barriers.

David Cameron to speak at Gingerbread AGM

Labour Party

David Cameron is billed to speak at the AGM of Gingerbread, single parents, equal families, on Monday.  I would imagine the meeting, to be chaired by “Guardian” columnist Madeleine Bunting, will prove lively, to put it mildly.

I am especially interested as I was Chief Executive of Gingerbread in the early 1990s.  Although the organisation has since merged with the National Council for One Parent Families, I doubt if the nature of the Gingerbread membership has changed substantially.  In my day Gingerbread women, and since 90% of lone parents are women, nearly all the members were female, were tough and feisty, fighting for a better deal for lone parents.  Indeed the Gingerbread website states, “2009: The merged organisation [National Council for One Parent Families and Gingerbread] relaunches as Gingerbread.  And as the political, economic and social climate around single parents hardens, a new episode in campaigning life begins………..”

To an interested outsider, and I am now more out than in, the decision to invite Cameron looks suspiciously like the new episode will lean towards the Tories.  I would, however, caution Gingerbread against aligning themselves too far in that direction.  Only a year or two before my stint as Chief Executive, Peter Lilley, the then Secretary of State for Social Security, quoted from Gilbert and Sullivan at the Tory Party Conference.  Nothing wrong in that, you may think.  Except that the quote, with words changed as necessary, was the “I have a little list” from the “Mikado”, and Mr Lilley was to put lone parents on this list, the list being the roll call of those who would be executed.

I wonder how much Tory attitudes have changed.  Madeleine Bunting herself wrote a piece on “Guardian Comment is Free” on 29 November where she reported about David Cameron, “… when he recently appeared on the website mumsnet he was subjected to a collective howl of middle-England anxiety on everything from tax credits to free eye tests and choice of schooling. The subtext was, “how can someone of your background understand our lives?”

I’m afraid I will not be able to go on Monday, but I am fascinated as to how the meeting will go.  What’s the betting Gingerbread will realise they have made a terrible mistake?


Labour Party, Women's Rights

While I would not normally comment on speculation in the “Sun” newspaper

I feel it’s necessary today as the report may have some bearing on the European elections.

According to Political Editor George Pascoe-Watson both Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears are in line to be demoted from the Cabinet after the June 4 poll, my election in other words. Gordon Brown is, according to the “Sun”, going to drop these two women to improve his general election chances.

Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears

Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears

The Prime Minister’s choice of ministerial colleagues is obviously a matter for him. What I am concerned about is the treatment both Jacqui and Hazel have received leading up to Gordon Brown’s potential reshuffle – a reshuffle which will take place after what, as the “Sun” puts it, will be Labour’s ‘drubbing in the polls’. Thank you George. I really appreciate being told I’m facing melt down.

Both Jacqui and Hazel have, I believe, been hounded far more than any man in their position would have been. Jacqui has been made a scapegoat for the vagaries of the present system of MPs’ expenses, allowing commentators to then attack her performance as Home Secretary. Hazel, on the other hand, has faced a continual barrage of low level sniping.

Neither woman has deserved this treatment. They have both performed as well as most of their Cabinet colleagues. I suspect Jacqui Smith was singled out for particular scrutiny regarding her allowances and private life in a way most other members of the Cabinet were not. When an individual is targeted, things often come out. I defy anyone in politics to be so pure that they automatically survive the driven snow test.

The reason Jacqui has been picked out and Hazel ridiculed? They are both women. I remember when I worked for “Gingerbread”, the lone parent charity in the early 1990s, two high profile women suffered the same treatment. Barbara Mills, the then Director of Public Prosecutions, and the former Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency, Ros Hepplewhite, were pursued at every possible opportunity. Eventually they both left their posts.

Dame Barbara Mills

Dame Barbara Mills

I would have hoped that 15 years on things may have changed. Sadly not. Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears are the unfortunate successors of Barbara and Ros.