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The budget fails on childcare

This article is over 21 years, 2 months old
Issue 1739

The budget fails on childcare

Swings and roundabouts

“ON BUDGET day Gordon Brown said he was giving loads of help to families. And what he did will mean a few pounds extra for me. But on the same day the local council, led by Labour in coalition with the Tories, put up fees for children at its nurseries by up to 40 a week. It more than wiped out everything that came from the budget. How are people with children supposed to survive?”

Office worker Alix Edwards from Hackney in east London shows the reality behind all the media talk of Brown’s “great budget for parents and children”. Alix works part time, has a three year old daughter at a council-run nursery, and qualifies for Working Families Tax Credit. “Leave aside all the propaganda. It is not getting any easier to survive. The government says we all have to be ‘flexible’, but firms don’t act ‘flexibly’ towards parents who have to fit in all the difficult demands of fitting together childcare and work. Working Families Tax Credit is not much more than the old Family Credit it replaced. And you lose a lot of the housing benefit, council tax benefit and free school meals because it is counted as income. It is all getting so pressured that I might have to give up my job and work as a childminder.”

Hospital worker Diana Swingler has two children at nursery, one four years old and one ten months old. “Two months ago we were paying 160 a week for the two of them. In a month’s time it will be 210 a week. That will take two thirds of my wages. If both the children were under three it would be 300 a week-my entire pay! I’ve applied before for Working Families Tax Credit when we had just one child and was refused, even though my income and my partner’s income together are just 370 a week before tax, which is not much in London. Don’t believe the hype. There are still not nearly enough nursery places, they are far too expensive, and the government’s cuts to local councils means that things are getting worse, not better, for many people.”

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