By Cara Sulieman
CHILD CARE expert Dr Penelope Leach has slammed politicians for making decisions about family issues they don’t fully understand.
Speaking to a packed tent at the Edinburgh Book Festival today (Tues), she said that the problem with the options available to parents today was that the policy makers have never experienced the problem themselves.
She said: “Hardly any politicians, academics or policy makers find it necessary to leave their own infants in the first few months in less than high quality child care.
“Quite a lot of them have no idea what it would be like to have no other choice.”
The expert – who has been an authority on child development since the 1970s – said that politicians have the money to pay for nannies or to support their wives choice to stay at home.
She added: “Young parents, especially young single parents, have no choice but to take any old job they are given because they are told that they will stop receiving benefits if they don’t.”
Dr Leach explained that once maternity leave had expired, there was only a certain amount of time that young single parents could choose to stay at home with their children before getting their financial lifeline cut.
During the talk, which stemmed from her new book, Child Care Today, Dr Leach said that the British childcare system didn’t work – and that it should be modelled more on the system in other countries.
She said: “We need to give parents choice.
“In France mothers are offered a monthly payment that they can do whatever they feel necessary with.
“They can treat it as their salary, or they can use it to pay for child care while they go out and work.”
She explained that almost 50 per cent of a mother’s earnings were cut as soon as she had a child, either by taking the lower maternity payment, or by paying for childcare.
And she went on to say that it should be every taxpayer that funds the necessary system, not just parents.
Stable child care
She said: “It has to be paid for by taxpayers in exactly the same way that education is.
“If it was only people with children who paid for education then we wouldn’t be able to fund them through primary school.
“It will cost the country less in the long run if we provide excellent, stable childcare for babies and young children.
“It will cost less for the health system and less for the law.”