Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Dear Mr Duncan-Smith - So Who will Raise our Children?...

... when a Parent who currently works Part Time is pushed or forced to go Full Time under your plans for Universal Credit?

I hung on your every word Mr Duncan-Smith and that of your ministers at the DWP Questions on January 28th. When asked about Part Time Workers under U Credit you replied "The Department is looking closely at how we can assist people to take more work while on universal credit. We do not have the final results of that...."

Assist. That's fine. I like "Assist". That implies an element of choice for the Part Time Worker. But the more I hear from the Government, the more I am thinking this will be "pushed" or the worse case scenario "forced" into Full Time Work.

Women in particular have historically liked Part Time Work. Whatever the rights and wrongs of equality, historically women have been care givers and homemakers. Women of all classes and more frequently men whose Full Time work has been eroded, are working Part Time and then care giving for children and older relatives and home making. After your part time work has finished, someone has to make the kids tea, do the washing up, wash and iron and other housing chores. Increasingly there are elderly relatives who have to be cared for too.

So under Universal Credit, we will be coerced into going Full Time. My sons are 23, 20, 14 and 13. The youngest is autistic. I worked Full Time in a Call Centre with my eldest two sons, just before Tony Blair came into power when there were no childcare facilities that were subsidised. I worked 10am - 6pm Monday to Friday and out of my £850 monthly take home pay, I paid £270 for my sons to attend an after school club back in 1996. We all arrived home exhausted at 7pm. Tea still had to be made and chores done. I felt I was letting them down, as all they had was a frazzled mother. At the time I was a divorced single mother and had no help as I lived 150 miles away from relatives.

After I had remarried and my youngest son was born and diagnosed with autism, the world turned upside down. Although financially we experienced five years of real struggle, I HAD to stay at home. Why? My youngest son needed my input. He needed a mother there to get him to reach his full potential. It would have been a little easier under the Labour Government and Sure Start to find childcare as we lived at the time in Liverpool, but my disabled son was and is too precious for me not to have given him the most important gift of all: MY TIME.

Indeed with a husband working full time to make ends meet and 4 sons who had after school activities, medical appointments and wanted mum at the school gate, and a home cooked meal to come home to, working any amount back then would have been a real struggle. Lots of women and men do, and have no choice, and I salute them. But due to that early interevention and that full time mothering, my youngest son in particular is thriving. A state run nursery for disabled children intervened when he was 3, and provided early intervention and strategies that I also learnt from and worked with us as parents to find our sons maximum ability. He is now a soon to be 14 year old who has interests in drama and the arts and a sense that with his disability he is an essential human being with worth both to himself and society.

Could my son even think like this if I had worked Full Time from his birth? I think not.

My question is Mr Duncan Smith - Who will Raise our Children if we are not around for a large part of our Children's Day? Note I said "Raise" and not "Look After". I can get next doors 16 year old to baby sit for a few hours. No, who is providing the in depth quality care on a 1-1 that children need? For me more importantly: Who is raising our disabled children?

This week Liz Truss has announced Childcare - Staff ratios will be raised so more nurseries can take more children at lower cost. Cost, Mr Duncan-Smith. Your government is obsessed with Low Quality and Low Cost. Like the two things must go hand in hand, come hell or high water and damn the consequences. Childminders will be allowed  6 children to 1 childminder ratio. What childminder could cope with 6 perfectly "normal" children? what happens if 1 of these children is disabled? Life does not work on stats. No mention is  made of ratios for disabled children. There have been no specialist nursery nurses trained exclusively to deal with a wide range of disabilities. There are no specialist day nurseries that I know who care exclusively for disabled children. Probably due to cost. For disabled children are costly and grow into disabled adults who are costly also and this is frowned upon by Government.

Lastly I would ask you to look at potential future crime figures. If Part Time Workers are pushed into Full Time work and have a number of children - more than one child - and low quality care, and low cost care are the only option, how many of these workers will choose the "No Care" option once children are older? That first year in High School is problematic. Aged 11/12 they think they are older now, but are at that in between age before becoming teenagers. Kids coming home, letting themselves in, getting their own teas perhaps, the dreaded X Box, Facebook etc - it all leads to mischief. Mischief may lead to law breaking. Parental supervision is needed.

So my answer to your rhetoric is to leave parents who currently work Part Time to make their own choice under Universal Credit about their own working arrangements. This stick to beat them into working Full Time will not work in the short term, and will have potentially high costs for society in the long term through increased Crime and Disorder.

And for the record, I have raised and am currently raising 4 sons whom I am proud of. All will be contributing members of society and law abiding citizens. The price I personally paid to make this a fact is by raising them with values and being there for them full time. In the long term it benefits society and saves the Government £s in not having to intervene.

Now me working Part Time, isn't that a price worth paying Mr Duncan-Smith?