Conference #2 – Childcare and paternity policies
Throughout my childhood I was always aware of the struggle my mother went through trying to care for my siblings.
My mother was an asylum seeker from Angola who fled to England with her children, leaving behind my father who sacrificed a lot to ensure our safety. My mother faced new challenges upon reaching England. I was always aware of the difficulty of balancing her job with the unpaid hours of housework and caring. As a result of my upbringing, the Liberal Democrats’ new policy which focuses on increasing the allocation of free childcare hours, was one of the topics that piqued my interest.
Baroness Tyler of Enfield, who has always maintained a positive role in issues regarding social mobility and wellbeing, headed up the Lib Dem group on “A Balanced Working Life”, whose key policy proposals are focused on improving living conditions of low- and middle-income households by establishing an official living wage, promoting a major expansion of free childcare hours and encouraging more parental leave by fathers with an introduction of a “Daddy Month”.
I am pleased the Lib Dems have taken action to improve the situation of many families like mine, and are taking steps to strengthen the middle and lower classes as well as attempting to alleviate the burden on parents who have to juggle their professional and familial responsibilities.
Another point of praise for this policy is the focus on paternity leave. As a member of a youth charity I often hear that one problem is the lack of positive male role models, but despite the apparent shift towards greater gender equality, women are entitled to 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave, however men are only permitted up to two weeks’ paternity leave (Directgov, 2013). This not only pressures the mother to leave her job for longer and act as the principal parent, but it also damages a father’s opportunity to equally participate in parenting and become that positive role model.
The policy’s proposal for a “living wage” suggests a lack of economic thinking. Following the financial crisis of 2008 the UK has developed a substantial debt and the suggestion of offering this wage demonstrates to me a lack of understanding of our current economic position.
Whilst I agree with the intentions of the policy in simple monetary terms, the implementation of all these policies seems very costly. Only time will tell if the party is able to implement these policies, however I recommend that focusing on achieving these plans while keeping costs low will at least improve those chances.