Gather ‘round all ye who hunger and thirst for tomorrow’s news today and listen to the wise words of the prophetic one. For I, haggard and weary like a clapped out fortune teller, did gaze into my crystal ball only days ago to predict that, “it will not be long before one-year-olds will be expected to be dropped off at nursery for ten hours a day, five days a week.”
Sure enough on Sunday, as predictable as a broken Lib Dem election promise, did Ms Willott, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, say that all parties should consider pledging free childcare for one-year-olds in their general election manifestos to help encourage women to resume their careers. I should start charging.
The Minister said extending childcare to babies would be expensive but “it may well be that it’s the right thing to do”. So at least we recognise that we are talking about babies now. As I said before: the childcare machine is never sated. Never I tell you. It eats up younger and younger children. Soon they will be coming to a maternity ward near you to wrestle the newborn out of your hands because ‘that may be the right thing to do’.
Not the right thing for the babies might I add. They usually want to be with Mum. That is why when the infants, who are aware of what is going on, have to be peeled off Mum at the nursery door. But never mind.
The Minister is concerned that the high cost of childcare immediately after maternity leave forces many mothers to remain at home. Because that would just be terrible – terrible I tell you. For mothers of a one-year-old infant (not school aged children) to be at HOME, home I say, with her own baby. Caring for it. Playing with it, talking and singing to it. Loving it. Oh, the horror. The horror!
Asked whether the coalition would consider offering free hours for children aged one, Ms Willott said: “It may well be that that’s something the Government needs to look at. The issue is that it is extremely expensive.” Sure, that is the issue. The expense.
Not the fact that the government would be funding and encouraging the separation of mothers and their infants when most of the evidence says this is a very bad indeed. Sure, the expense is the issue when working mothers of infants say they would like to spend more time with their children – in fact one third say they would quit completely. No, none of this counts. It is the expense.
A word on the expense, if you will. The Department for Education has estimated the cost of a full-time childcare offer of 50 hours per week for 50 weeks of the year for all children aged one to four in England would be over £21 billion per annum. This excludes both capital and revenue costs associated with building the capacity to deliver an offer of this scale. So yes it will cost the taxpayer a few bob. And no you are not going to recoup this money in tax revenue because many Mums will be going into low paid jobs and will be paying little if any tax in the first place.
But in truth neither the welfare of babies, nor the desires of mothers, nor the interests of the taxpayers bother these politicians. It is the ‘maternity gap’ that keeps them up all night. All those Mums at home caring for their children when they could be out boosting GDP, and increasing the numbers of women in work, is what irritates them. What an odious bunch they are.