Former Tory education minister Robert Halfon has suggested that ‘unemployed parents deserve free childcare more than working families’ – especially foster carers, who are at present excluded from ‘the additional 15 hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds’. This he describes as ‘indefensible’, since ‘foster carers raise some of society’s most vulnerable children, many of whom would benefit from high-quality childcare, which would help boost social development’.

Research suggests that would be the case only if foster parents were no more fit that the child’s natural parents to care for him or her.
Since there is little evidence to suggest that children put in daycare because their parents are working benefit from being left by them or find it easy to adjust, is it likely that a child from a troubled family, placed in foster care, would appreciate being farmed out, yet again, to daycare, or adapt better? Far from being ‘boosted’, wouldn’t his ‘social development’ take another severe knock?

Perhaps advocates of institutional childcare should admit that their chief objective is financial, in getting mothers – and that apparently now includes foster mothers – into paid work, where they can contribute to the state coffers. We could then discuss the relative merits of warehousing children at their most vulnerable stage in life and bringing them up within the human family – and which method actually deserves the description ‘quality childcare’.


  1. The key objectives of advocates institutional childcare may be financial, but their key motivator is I believe guilt.
    Less than one in four married mothers say their ‘ideal situation’ would be full time work. Just a fraction over half say part time work is ideal, and one in four just want to be stay at home mums.
    These figures have not changed much in decades and remain constant across the western world. This is a huge problem for the career driven ladies of the Metropolitan Liberal Elite, who hold much of the political and media power in the West.
    Because even though they can afford the Nannies and Au-pairs that most women cannot, they still cannot shake that persistent nagging feeling, that they should be spending a bit more time with the kids……..

    • Having worked in the Social Care and Health Sectors mainly women. This is so true. Of course the female GPs and Consultants and senior managers have the huge salaries to “have it all” with all the modern domestic staff they easily afford. However for most of the workforce there are hard choices and guilt about those choices. Its a frequent topic of conversation in the staff rooms and offices yet officially a forbidden topic.

      • Spot on,
        I work for a very large private sector corporation (which is quite flexible) and I know of many mid ranking, professional, female colleagues who would love to reduce their hours. Often just a day less a week, would make a big difference to them.

        • This is played out across the civil service. Many women move from private sector law firms, for example, into government departments because the part time/flexible hours and job sharing options are good for family life.

          • Interesting point. Its hard to get figures but it seems that the ranks of management in the public sector has become a female dominated area.

          • Lots of stats here. Women seem to be the majority at every level.
            Of course my evidence is largely anecdotal (I do talk to lots of mothers), but it does seem to be the case that the perennial concern for women is ‘am I getting the balance right?’. Almost every mother frets about it, from full time stay at homes right through to the most driven full-time career woman who only takes a couple of weeks maternity and who employs nannies, cleaners, whatever. It’s the modern woman’s burden, you might say. Free childcare for tots does nothing much to alleviate or even recognise this situation either for the fretting mothers or for their children.

          • For the past 20 years there has been all manner of “positive action” mentors, special courses for “women into management”, experiments with part time senior managers and to be honest some out and out discrimination against male candidates. But “progress” is painfully slow. Supposedly due to neanderthal men but in reality due to the inevitable demands on one a more senior levels. In this year I know two female senior managers ask to step down to less demanding roles. And particularly since austerity this is not unusual. The official reason is usually some caring responsibility but in chatting to them its usually just to escape the “stress” and long hours. In all my years I have only once come across one man take this route. More and more the panoply of “positive action” (really discrimination but that would be illegal under the Equality Act) will come into the private sector driven by the Gender Pay Gap audits because even in the Gov. Guidance its acknowledge the gap isn’t equal pay for the same job but the pattern of management. So to reduce the “gap” requires more women get promoted, yet in fact evidence from the public sector is that there is marked reluctance as senior people simply don’t get a “work life balance”..

          • Yes there is such a level of dishonesty. Being fair to the Swedes they do research these sorts of things and found that over the past few decades their economy had become more “gender segregated” mainly because women made a rational choice to enter public sector employments as this did indeed offer more flexibility and reduced hours! Just as I just read an article about a mother who was complaining;

            “Ms Davies said in the time she worked for the firm, others who started after her progressed much faster, being given “more training and more responsibilities.”Because they were single and had no dependents they dedicated their whole selves to the job. Because I was part time and had set hours they almost forgot about me,” she says.”
            As the sector was retail most of the “dedicated” staff will have likely been women and men, and the employer is likely to have focussed on the dedicated ones for progression. The “debate” if one can call it that,appears to sidestep realities and people’s actual preferences and aspirations. There appears to be every reason, for the future of our society, to assist parents. But would it not be better to do that on the basis of dealing with the realities and what people would like.

  2. Pouring more resources into an inefficient economy further worsens our productivity.

    Not to mention the deteriorating mental health of children returning to an empty home after a tough day at school.

  3. It would be interesting to see how many female nurses and doctors are either on maternity leave and/ or part time in the NHS.
    This is another huge taxpayer subsidy
    Why did we nationalise child rearing and childcare
    The benefits of parental involvement and responsibility has many self apparent advantages.
    The state can be a good servant but is a very poor master

      • But they each costs hundreds of thousands of pounds, of taxpayers money to train
        The contract is broken when they do not deliver their side of the bargain.
        The NHS is dominated by employee perks but ignores too many patient led requirements

        • A female consultant friend first told me about the problem some years ago, but in has more widely noticed than then. Her complaint was that if she needed to get in touch with a female GP it often took several days before they managed to speak, which may not be in the patient’s interest. (But then she belonged to the old school who put patients first and has since retired).

    • The shortage of GP’s is due to the Push for more women in medicine. The women earn good salaries and can have a year’s maternity leave and then choose to work part time. We have one who arrived working part time, is now on maternity leave for her second child and is missing for another 6 months. In the meantime the 2 senior partners have retired and we are left with locums and the Doctor from a nearby surgery who has bought our surgery out. Needless to say you have to wait 2 weeks for an appointment. Doctors used to be all male and work all hours!

      • You can hear and read many similar stories
        This is taking a lend of taxpayers and patients
        It must be a major factor in the NHS plummeting ‘productivity’
        Too much cost and employee rights, too little patient attention and all at taxpayers expense

  4. It seems that the term “childcare” is limited to a specialised meaning. For the politicians, it appears to mean “care provided outside the child’s home by someone who is not related to the child, but is paid to provide it, and who can wash their hands of the child once it has been delivered back to its family.”

    The concept that childcare might also consist of the provision by someone related to the child and inside the child’s home, without payment but delivered out of genuine love and concern for the child’s long term mental, emotional and physical health, and where there is no end of that commitment and investment until the child is old enough to take care of itself, just doesn’t seem to register; still less that it might be a better form of childcare; less still that it might actually be the very best form of childcare yet discovered.

    • Pretty simple really, if Mum is taking care of the kids, she’s not paying taxes, and whatever organization that is not providing childcare for her, is paying less taxies. Follow the money, cause they surely don’t care about the kids in the least.

  5. As always politicians are woefully ill informed. Foster Parents are in fact small care homes in that they are paid. Many will take in a number of children and turn Fostering into their career. There is training etc. and as demand is high there are opportunities to charge more for different categories of child. Most Fostering is done through private companies who operate on a regional or sometime national basis. It is well beyond just a few altruistic families. This is not to say most do absolutely sterling work with often very “damaged” children, but they are doing a paid job, part of which is to be an alternative to institutional care.

    • I know of a married couple, who both had full-time careers, and children of their own, who also had a foster daughter (I don’t know her background). The foster daughter went to university and is now a qualified medical doctor.

  6. It is a strange logic which says that parents who are at home all day need to put their children into a nursery more than those who go out and do an honest day’s work.

    • They should take this recommendation but then send both parents out to work , any type of work , welcome to the real world.

    • I have been both a career woman and a stay at home mother so can comment with some knowledge. I have no doubt you think “being at home all day” means sitting around watching day time TV and eating chocolates. However, that isn’t the case. There is good reason for sending young children to nursery for some of the week. That is simply that the children learn skills of socialisation and interaction with other children in a structured environment. That cannot be provided at home in the same way. Incidentally there is nothing dishonest about being at home to bring children up as decen, honest citizens.

  7. I wonder how much longer the “15 hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds” will be available. A lady involved in a local pre-school group tells me that they could not exist without most parents paying for extra hours as the amount paid by the government does not now cover their costs.

    • That free childcare has done for many playgroups, of course, not least the one my children went to and where my wife once worked.

      • Clearly the lady who told me believes that it won’t last much longer. She’s looking for some other job working with young children as she really enjoys the work and the children all seem to like her.

  8. Hard working career women benefit which of the following – Their children? Their husband? Themselves? Or could it just possibly be those nice people in government who deem tax-payers to be far more important than mothers?

    • My daughter has decided it is number 4 on your list. She was made redundant and says she will never pay supertax again. Anything over £40,000 a year you give half to the Government and have all the stress in home life and responsibility and stress in work! If you cut back on things and cook more and don’t pay childcare, life is easier and you get to spend more time with your children.

  9. This is, of course, bonkers. But it is particularly insane to think that we should pay foster parents to look after children, and then pay them extra so that they can pay other people to look after the children were paying them to look after.

    Presumably, this is Halfon’s very own mad idea, and nothing to do with the wishes of foster parents?

    • I used to know him slightly, before I relocated oop North. He replaced Bill Ramell as Mp for Harlow. My initial view was that he was a bit of an idiot, but actually he’s anything but, and quite competent. Which isn’t overly common in the Conservative party at the moment. So there might just be a bit more to it than is represented here.

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