Here is a letter written by a member in response to her local council's Carers' Strategy
What about parents bringing up their own children?
I have just been reading the above strategy on the LB Greenwich website, and would like to make the following comments.
I believe parents who choose to stay at home to bring up their dependent children should be classified as carers and their needs and aspirations included in your carers' strategy.
I note that your definition of carers is based on the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995, and you define a carer as 'someone who looks after or provides regular unpaid help to family members, neighbours or friends who are sick or disabled. This includes parents of children with disabilities'.
However, I would challenge this as being too narrow, and I believe Greenwich Council should be challenging it too, if you are to meet the needs of all your residents. Greenwich is a forward-looking borough in so many ways (school meals, recycling, the Olympics, to name but a few) and you should be looking to lead in this area too.
Support for parents is unfairly skewed
There is considerable help available to parents of dependent children who wish to return to work. This includes Government-funded programmes such as Sure Start centres and the childcare element of Tax Credits, but it also includes extensive Council resources such as subsidies to childcare services, support for childminders and a plethora of literature promoting commercial childcare and how to choose it.
By contrast - even though ALL ratepayers fund these initiatives - there is no corresponding support for parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Yet we are making a valid personal choice and arguably giving our children the best possible start.
(As I am sure you are aware, there is an avalanche of evidence about the negative effects of too much paid work on family relationships and children's outcomes and attainment. Study after study also shows that a significant number of parents with dependent children would prefer not to work outside the home while their children are young, if they felt they could afford that choice. I can supply many specific references for these research areas if you are interested.)
Financial hardship faced by stay-at-home parents
By doing what we believe is best for our children, and putting them first, we are also forgoing current income and future pension rights at precisely the time when our costs have risen through having to support additional dependents. In this, stay-at-home parents are no different from other kinds of carers.
For example, it becomes hard to afford things like standard prices for leisure centre activities, full-price public transport or prescription charges. Stay-at-home parents have no income and I would suggest they should receive concessions similar to those for retired people. Perhaps as a start, for example, these concessions could be to made available to all parents at home with a child under five, with a means-tested ceiling to exclude parents with very high-earning partners.
This would also send out a strong signal that Greenwich Council places a high value on the care and wellbeing of young children. Supporting those parents who wish to stay at home would help improve children's readiness to learn when they start school (eg vocabulary, speaking and listening skills; cooperative behaviour; concentration skills; and secure attachment). Again, there is considerable research evidence in this field, which I can supply if desired.
EU recognition of carers in GDP
Finally, I believe LB Greenwich should be joining the lobby at European level to achieve recognition in GDP of carers' contribution to the economy. This campaign is being led by Ireland and Sweden and would give a huge boost to the status and recognition of carers across the EU. Yet there is no mention of it in your strategy. Could it be included in your work programme?
Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any comments about my submission. I look forward to hearing your views in due course.