British Chancellor Jeremy Hunt this week announced an expansion of free childcare as part of his budget. The measure is intended to draw parents back to the workplace—that is to say, away from their home and their children.
Families with children aged under five are to be offered 30 hours of free childcare every week, an extension of the current policy which only applies to those with three- and four-year-olds. Mr. Hunt said this will make a “big difference” by enabling more parents to take up a job.
Commenting on the handout, The Daily Telegraph suggested that “today’s toddlers will miss out” because this expansion will not come into full force until late 2025. ‘Small-c’ conservative commentator and columnist at The Mail on Sunday Peter Hitchens contended, however, that children are better off while under the care of their parents, which, of course, requires the child to be at home. He asked: “Why is it conservative, or even Conservative, to pay mothers to abandon their tiny children to paid strangers and march off into wage-slavery?” Mr. Hitchens added: “As for the children’s view of this, who speaks for them? … It occurs to me that at least some small children cannot much relish being separated daily from their mothers, but as a 71-year-old man I have no say in the matter.”
A 2013 British Social Attitudes study suggested that just 4% of Britons believe that the best way to organise family life is to push mothers and fathers away from the home and into full-time work. Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group, Britain’s oldest conservative think-tank, suggested that our leaders should look to countries like Hungary to draw inspiration on caring for children. Commenting on Mr. Hunt’s childcare announcement and wider Budget speech, he told The European Conservative:
In his Budget speech, the chancellor acknowledged the public’s desire to move away from mass immigration, and to do that he needs to make having a large family a realistic prospect for most people again.
It is better that parents feel able to afford childcare as a general pathway to making having a family an attractive economic prospect, but better yet is to incentivise stay-at-home parenting.
The best models for this exist in nations like Hungary, where having a large family isn’t just economically possible, it is actively beneficial.
That is where the solution to having sustainable demographics lies, and always did—not in uncontrolled mass immigration.
Labour has also been critical of the handout, though on the basis that it fails to go far enough.