Budget 2013: Backlash grows over plan to penalise mothers who don"t work


An insult to stay at home mothers: Backlash grows over Budget plan to penalise mothers who don't workCritics described plan as a 'slap in the face' for stay at home mothersA Government briefing was inadvertently published yesterdayThe document, designed to help press officers rebuff criticism, was removed

By
Jason Groves and Becky Barrow

PUBLISHED:

23:12 GMT, 19 March 2013

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UPDATED:

08:57 GMT, 20 March 2013

Mothers who stay at home to look after their children do not need as much financial help as those who work, according to the Treasury.

The insulting claim was inadvertently published yesterday as part of a briefing on the Government’s new childcare plans.

It fuelled accusations that the scheme will deliberately discriminate against traditional single-earner families in an attempt to force more mothers back to work.

Insulting: Mothers who stay at home to look after their children do not need as much financial help as those who work, according to the Treasury (file picture)

Insulting: Mothers who stay at home to look after their children do not need as much financial help as those who work, according to the Treasury (file picture)

Critics described the new policy as a ‘slap in the face for two million stay-at-home mothers’.

The Treasury briefing, designed to help press officers ‘rebut’ criticism, stated: ‘Working families who are struggling with their childcare costs, or families where parents want to go to work but can’t afford to are in greater need of state support for child care than families where one parent chooses to stay at home and look after their children full-time.’

The document was later removed.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg yesterday confirmed that working couples who each earn less than 150,000 will qualify for child care tax breaks worth up to 1,200 a year per child from 2015.

That means they could have a joint income of nearly 300,000 and still qualify.

They will receive 20 per cent – equivalent to the basic rate of tax – of their yearly childcare costs, up to a total of 6,000 per child. This will save a typical working family with two children under 12 up to 2,400 a year.

Backtrack: The document regarding stay-at-home mothers, meant as a briefing for press officers to rebuff criticism, was published inadvertently and then removed

Backtrack: The document regarding stay-at-home mothers, meant as a briefing for press officers to rebuff criticism, was published inadvertently and then removed

Single parents who are employed and earn less than 150,000 will also be eligible.

But, in a move that will anger Tory traditionalists, the Government confirmed that families in which only one parent works will not receive a penny.

Speaking on a visit to a nursery in Wandsworth, south London, the Prime Minister said: ‘For many families the cost of childcare is not one issue among many, it is the issue – it really matters.

‘We want to help people who work hard and want to get on, and so effectively this is some tax relief on childcare.’ But the campaign group Mothers at Home Matter described the policy as a ‘slap in the face for two million stay-at-home mothers’.

Its secretary, Lynne Burnham, said many full-time mothers were angry about the suggestion that they not hard-working.

‘It is completely incongruous for the Government to be paying 1,200 per child to families on joint incomes of 300,000 yet taking away child benefit from single-earner couples on 50,000,’ she said.

‘Mothers who stay at home are hard-working – the difference is that we don’t get paid. The Government doesn’t seem to understand that the Big Society David Cameron wanted is falling by the wayside as mothers are forced back to work.’

Children’s minister Elizabeth Truss denied that the Government was deliberately trying to make mothers go back to work.

But her Tory predecessor Tim Loughton said: ‘The Government needs to show that all parents are important.’

He also questioned why the new scheme was being delayed until autumn 2015, adding: ‘Families need help now – not after the next election.

Many married families are also giving up hope that Government will deliver on its manifesto commitment and coalition agreement to bring in a transferable married tax allowance.’

Unveiling: Chancellor George Osborne is to announce his spring Budget today

Unveiling: Chancellor George Osborne is to announce his spring Budget today

Anastasia de Waal, of the centre-Right think-tank Civitas, said: ‘The main problem with the Government’s support is that it gives a tax break to couples so long as they pay someone else to look after their children.

‘It would be better – for both children and the economy – if the Government let parents keep more of the money they have earned so that they can decide whether to care for their own children or pay someone else.’

Under the changes, workplace childcare vouchers, which are subsidised by the taxpayer, will be phased out.