This is a summary of a research paper titled Who Cares? The Real Cost of Childcare which has been prepared for the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship conference in London next week.

Imagine a world where money is not a constraint when it comes to childcare.

Picture a five-star rated daycare with intellectually stimulating toys and an adventure playground where children can thrive.

Surprisingly, most parents in the UK, when asked, wouldn’t choose this option. Their primary desire is to spend more quality time with their young children.

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This finding is contained in a paper authored by Louise Perry, Fiona Mackenzie, and Ellen Pasternack, for the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship conference to be held in London next week and at which Family First will be present.

Titled Who Cares? The Real Cost of Childcare, the paper argues that parents, driven by love and deep attachment, are the best qualified caregivers for their children.

It emphasizes that caring for children goes beyond meeting their basic physical needs and should prioritize providing them with love, security, recognition, and value.

The paper contends that children thrive when cared for by their parents, with other family members such as grandparents being the second-best alternative.

Society should prioritize caregiving and adjust secondary priorities like work and expenses accordingly.

Unfortunately, modern life often places childcare as something to be squeezed between work schedules and financial pressures.

The paper questions how society has allowed these secondary priorities to overshadow the importance of caring for children.

It also critiques the government’s subsidization of formal institutionalized childcare, which, in the authors’ view, separates young children from their parents and forces parents to choose between work and care.

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The paper proposes several low-cost, simple solutions to create a culture of care and provide families with the freedom to choose how they care for their children:

Childcare Budgets: The authors suggest giving government childcare subsidies directly to parents as a “childcare budget.”

This would provide parents with an additional £1,215 per year per child between the ages of one and four. Parents can then decide how to allocate this money, whether for formal childcare, hiring a nanny, staying at home, or covering the travel costs of grandparents caring for their grandchildren.

Family-Based Taxation: The paper argues for taxing families as units rather than individuals. This approach would enable couples to choose flexible work patterns that accommodate their childcare choices and job situations without facing penalties.

It supports the idea that one parent should not be penalized for choosing to stay at home while the other earns more.

Work that Works for Families: Normalizing flexible work options such as part-time hours, career breaks, and hybrid working can help families strike a modern balance between home and workplace commitments.

The paper also suggests creating “graduate scheme” equivalents to assist parents in re-entering the workforce after taking career breaks to raise children. Paying sustainable wages would enable employers and employees to share the rewards of labor more equitably.

Affordable Homeownership: The authors highlight the importance of making it easier and more affordable for couples to buy homes where they can raise their children comfortably. Having stable and spacious living arrangements is crucial for the well-being of growing families.

In conclusion, this paper authored by Louise Perry, Fiona Mackenzie, and Ellen Pasternack underscores the significance of care in raising children.

It challenges the current societal model that places work and financial pressures ahead of caregiving responsibilities.

By advocating for childcare budgets, family-based taxation, flexible work options, and affordable homeownership, the paper offers practical solutions to prioritize children and families.

It calls upon individuals and policymakers to cultivate a culture that places children, parenting, and future generations at the forefront.

Ultimately, by implementing these simple steps to reform the childcare environment, society can make it easier for parents to choose caregiving options that benefit the emotional well-being of their children.

Read the full paper here.

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Lyle Shelton is National Director of the Family First Party. He started his career as a rural journalist before being elected as a member of the Toowoomba City Council and serving the Australian Christian Lobby for 10 years, half of that decade as ACL's Managing Director. He was a Director and spokesman for the Coalition for Marriage during the 2017 postal survey campaign which resulted in the legal undefinition of marriage. He also blogs here.

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