It seems New Labour hasn't lost its appetite for outsourcing parenting. Ed Balls announced today a policy (yes, a policy) of 25 hours free childcare for 3-4 year olds where 'all' parents are working. This extends the free nursery care introduced by the last Labour government.
Last week the Libdems offered to let the state cook the main meal of the day for all infant school children. This week Labour are offering to relieve us of the burden of being with our own children so that we can get out to work.
Hello? Parenting is the most significant work that anyone with children will ever do. Yet again politicians send the message that earning money matters more than raising your children. But not to worry, the Big Friendly Government will do it for you. Politicians go on and on about making work pay, how about making parenting pay? Shouldn't it be more rewarding, in every sense, for parents to invest in their children rather than being bribed back into the workplace? Home is a workplace too.
If Labour really do want to put £800m into family support, then how about something really useful: parenting skills courses for first-time parents, with regular refreshers/peer support as children grow older, to equip parents with the skills they need to raise children well. Then there wouldn't be so much need for the state to step in at a later stage to provide the hot meals and safe/supportive environment that some children never experience at home. It also empowers people to do a better job themselves, rather than extending the client base of the state at the expense of family life.