Published:

Laura Perrins is a former barrister turned stay at home mother. She campaigns for Mothers at
Home Matter. 

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 17.38.59Shortly before
the last election, David Cameron said that “I want the next Government to
be the most family friendly Government we’ve ever had in this country and that
is about everything we do to support families and it’s about supporting every
sort of family.” Well, there is one sort of family which can only feel deeply
betrayed: for the policies introduced by the coalition have all aggravated the
pre-existing penalisation of single-income families and stay-at-home mothers.

Many single-income
families have sacrificed an income to care for their children themselves at
home. In addition to this, they pay a disproportionate amount of tax compared to
double-income families. A single-income family earning £36,000 per year will
pay £9,000 in tax whereas a double-income family earning the exactly same
amount will pay £6,500. The penalisation increases the higher up the income
scale a single-income family is. The Coalition further penalised single-income
families by removing child benefit completely for those earning £60,000;
double-income families with combined earnings of just under £100,000, where
each party earns £49,000, retain their child benefit. The reason given for
removing child benefit from higher rate tax-payers was that ‘we were all in
this together’ – but it seems single-income families are in it more than
others. George Osborne has staked his political
career on implementing the cuts in a fair way; he has failed to do so in this
case.

At this point,
the fairest and most logical policy to implement would be to honour the pledge
to introduce the transferrable tax allowance for married couples. But ignoring
the mandate given to them, the Coalition has again favoured double-income
families by introducing the childcare allowance. This allowance, worth £1,200
per child, only applies to double-income families with external child-care
costs. Families earning up to £300,000 will benefit from the allowance.
Single-income families who have sacrificed a salary to care for their children
themselves and who pay a disproportionate amount of tax and who have lost their
child benefit are explicitly barred from the scheme.


Adding insult
to injury was the suggestion that single-income families are lazy. The
child-care allowance only applies to double-income families, as these are ‘hard
working’ and ‘aspirational.’ By implication if you are a mum who cares for your
infant yourself, while soothing your toddler’s third tantrum of the day you are
a slacker.

So why has the
Coalition targeted single-income families and stay-at-home mums in this way? It
seems even the children must be sacrificed to increase GDP. It has become
official policy that children are ‘obstacles to work’ and women must overcome
these obstacles to get back to work. The Daily Telegraph recently reported
that David Cameron’s official spokesman said it was “good for the economy” that
the Coalition was helping parents to pay high nursery fees so that they could
overcome “obstacles” to work. A fancy report, Maximising
Women’s Contribution to Future Economic Growth
(June 2013), supported by
Culture Secretary Maria Miller, stated: “Our national economy needs women’s
contribution, and action is required to remove the obstacles that currently
restrict women from realising their full potential.”

In essence, if
you are not working outside the home you are not only letting the economy down,
but you are letting yourself down. This is deeply derogatory and demeaning to stay-at-home mums. However when counting the GDP generated by working Mums, we must also
consider if tax credits are needed to top up her income and the income of the
childcare provider.

The reality is that
the tax system not only penalises single-income families, but that the taxpayer is
also subsidising both directly and indirectly the childcare industry. Many of
the workers in the industry are so badly paid that their incomes have to be topped
up by tax credits, and many of the jobs done by the working mums are also so
badly paid they have to be topped up with tax-credits. In addition, there will
now be a direct subsidy in the form of the childcare allowance.

So for
single-income families, some at least will be contributing to childcare costs
of another family, while their family has sacrificed a salary to care for their
children themselves. This is in addition to the fact that they get penalized in
the tax system. But since the tax credits used to keep the expensive childcare
industry afloat are totted up in a different column to GDP, the Government can
continue to claim the GDP generated from every working Mum is ‘real’ GDP. But
it really is a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

This
focus on getting mothers back to work preferably full-time could be justified
if this is what they wanted, but it is not. Many surveys say the majority of
mothers of young children want to care for their children themselves the
majority of the time. In a Netmums survey of 4,000 mums only 12 per cent  of those working full-time were happy to be doing so, and 19 per cent said they
would prefer to be a stay at home mum. A full 68 per cent said they would rather go
part-time. In addition, the survey reported that: ‘There is
a feeling of frustration that tax incentives help pay for childcare, but there
is no direct support for those who would like to choose to stay at home while
their children are young.’ This was before the introduction of the
childcare allowance.

In
the same survey, 50 per cent of stay at home mums said they wanted to look after their
own children and only seven per cent said they would like to work but could not afford the
childcare. In a USwitch survey of a thousand mothers, three out of four new mothers said that they would stay at home to bring up their
child if they could afford to. According to the research, six out of ten
mothers who return to work after having a baby do so only to pay off debt or
ease financial pressures. Just one in seven said they wanted to develop their
career. More needs to be done to facilitate the clear desire of some Mums to
care for their children at home.

The good news is that
something can be done to lessen the penalisation of single-income families. The
Coalition now must implement its pledge to introduce a transferrable tax
allowance for married couples with children. Tim Loughton MP has tabled amendments to the
Finance Bill for Report Stage when it returns to the floor of the House of
Commons shortly. Every
single Conservative MP should support it – if they fail to do so their voters should hold them to account. This would go some way to addressing the
discrimination against single-income families. It will not achieve parity, but
it is a long over-due recognition of caring duties within the tax system.

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