The age for free childcare hours needs re-assessing

I saw a petition shared on Facebook yesterday. This isn't uncommon, I often see all sorts of petitions shared: boycott this, change that, implement this... I rarely pay much attention.

However, this one caught my eye. And I signed it. And now I'm going to rant about it.

It was a petition to the government to give 15 hours free childcare to working parents of children from the age of nine months.

After nine months of maternity leave, most mums stop getting maternity pay (unless you work for a company that has a banging maternity scheme - if that's you, I'm really jealous).

I got statutory maternity pay when I was off which meant that when my nine months of leave were up, the £130-odd a week I got paid would stop. I was entitled to take a full 12 months of maternity leave, however the last quarter would be unpaid.

We, obviously, could not afford this. We saved enough to supplement the poor statutory maternity pay each month for the nine months I was off, but would've struggled to go any longer.

I've come back to work full-time, because I couldn't afford not to.

It's a double-edged sword.

Peyton goes to nursery three days a week because we couldn't manage grandparent childcare for those days. Even if we could, I'd have still sent her one day a week so she got to do all the fun/messy things I don't want to do at home (and obvs for the social interaction/development etc, too). Just for three days a week, our bill for nursery last month was more than our mortgage. And will be every month.

Granted, I do the tax-free childcare government scheme which pays 20% of your bill; so I saved about £100 off it. But still, it's a huge chunk of my wage gone.

**If you don't do this, you really need to! It's really easy to sign up to. Once you're done, all you do is pay 80% of your bill onto this government portal, they top it up with the further 20%, and then you send the payment to your nursery. It'll save us just over £1,000 a year which is better than a slap in the face.**

I can't go part-time because the days I would work would be the three we have no alternative childcare and she goes to nursery. So I'd be on a reduced wage, still paying out the hefty bill every month.

It's absolutely ludicrous that parents are faced with this expense - as if it wasn't expensive enough having a child!

Peyton loves nursery, so it's money well spent, but a helping hand from the government in terms of free hours would go a long way. Fifteen hours is not even two full days, it's not a lot, but it would be a huge help. Particularly to parents who are even less fortunate than us and don't have any childcare help and require full-time nursery places.

It would mean mums - and dads - could go back to work with more ease; it would encourage more parents to go back to work rather than to quit their jobs because, in so many cases, it costs too much to work.

How crazy is that?! It costs us too much money to work.

I'll get a certain amount of free hours when she turns two, I think, but even then that doesn't start until the start of the next term; meaning they'll kick in next September!

Fifteen hours a week from nine months for working parents would make the biggest of differences. In a country where employment rates aren't the greatest, surely the government should be doing everything it can to encourage people to get (back) into work. This would go such a long way to that.

Of course, there are parents who don't want to go back to work once their baby has been born. So not every single parent would claim the free hours. Some, even if they are going back to work, might still favour grandparent childcare to nurseries so they wouldn't require it either.

It's hard enough going back to work after having a baby without facing the prospect of steep childcare  costs (which are totally and utterly warranted, by the way, because the staff at nurseries do an amazing job and deal with an awful lot of shit; quite literally!!)

This petition is probably going to make no difference whatsoever. Parliament is so busy dealing with/arguing over Brexit it doesn't seem that anything else gets done at the moment.

Even if Brexit wasn't occupying so much of our politicians' time, I still highly doubt they would listen to the thousands who are crying out for the change. These petitions pop up all the time and the success rate is depressingly low.

But, I suppose, if you don't ask you don't get. I might write to my MP and see if it is something that could be raised in Parliament; often a quite email/letter to them gets things brought up at least in PMQs (Prime Minister's questions) and noted on record more than these petitions do.

If you want to sign the petition, which as I write this is still climbing, the link is here.

When I saw it yesterday it was on 18,000 signatures - it's now over 66,000 less than 24 hours later.

It's unlikely it'll make a difference, but we can but try!

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