As Justine Roberts says, there is a crisis in the affordability and availability of good quality childcare in the UK (I asked Boris Johnson about the childcare crisis. His response? ‘More Tumble Tots’, 14 June). But her suggestion that a system of government-backed childcare loans would solve the financial dilemmas they face would be laughable if it were not so serious, especially after the lessons which should have been learned about the student loans system.
Loans for childcare will not solve this problem for parents, many of whom struggle to provide their children with adequate food, clothing, shoes and heating when they are at home.
But this misses the main point, which is that all children are entitled to at least the basics of a decent life as they grow up. We all know and understand the research which shows that children’s physical, emotional, social and educational needs must be met for them to have a good chance of positive, healthy outcomes later in life. It is not rocket science, we know it’s true.
Good quality, free childcare available to all should be the ultimate aim. In the meantime childcare, properly subsidised through the tax system, should be introduced. Costs could be topped up by payments from parents who work full-time and have sufficient earnings. If it can work in other countries such as Finland, why can’t we make it work here? It is not a luxury or a choice, it is an urgent necessity for our children, our society and all our futures.
Laura Bates is absolutely right to point out the extraordinary difficulty that many women face when childcare costs rise, and their pay does not (Childcare costs are forcing women in Britain out of work. It needn’t be this way, 15 June).
However, it is not only women who decide to stay at home with their preschool children. My husband was delighted to sacrifice his economic security to be an at-home father. And in the days when flexible working was in its infancy, he carved out a second career for himself, albeit one that paid less than my job. Meanwhile, I found it an onerous responsibility being the main breadwinner for the family and there were times when I felt that I missed out. There are gains and losses on both sides that are not purely economic.
Undoubtedly there is a long-term financial hit when it comes to occupational pensions, which is something that needs to be discussed between parents early on to ensure mutual longer-term financial security. Perhaps employers should also contribute something, as parents with a partner at home won’t need to disrupt their employer’s business when it comes to children being ill.
Ryde, Isle of Wight