Priti Patel: A helping hand for mothers who want to work

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FAMILIES across Yorkshire will be marking Mother’s Day tomorrow, and celebrating the strong, loving women who take care of their families in every way.

Yet too often, we hear that these fantastic mothers feel guilty about juggling work and raising a family at the same time.

Now as Employment Minister and a mum myself, I want to use this column to praise working mothers across Yorkshire – and highlight the Government support available to parents across the region.

Combining family and work life can be stressful and challenging.

But the rewards of working are enormous for the individual, the family and the economy.

The employment rate in Yorkshire and the Humber is at a near-record high, with 23,000 more people in work over the past quarter.

This is excellent news and means more families are benefiting from the security of a regular pay cheque, with more cash in their pockets.

To harness the power of parents, especially mothers, we in Government now need to ensure that there is sufficient high quality, affordable childcare provision to enable more women to return to work when they are ready.

The vital link between high quality childcare and helping families to either return to work or extend their hours has been recognised as a priority for the Prime Minister, who nominated me to head up the Government’s Childcare Taskforce.

And that is why from September 2017, 30 hours of free childcare will be offered to nearly 400,000 working parents of three and four years old across England – doubling the amount of free childcare currently available. It’s the equivalent of £5,000-worth of childcare for each family.

Parents in York will be among the first to benefit from the scheme, after it was chosen as an early implementer of the 30 hours offer in September when my colleague Sam Gymiah visited the city in January.

Raising children is one of the most important and toughest jobs there is.

Women have typically played the role of becoming the stay-at-home parent, but research shows that mums want to work – so long as they know their children are being properly cared for.

More than one million women have taken up jobs since 2010, and we want to give as many women as possible the chance to benefit from the social and financial benefits that work brings.

And children benefit from their parents being in employment. Having a steady wage boosts the household income, shows the value of hard work to the next generation and introduces a work ethic into homes that lasts children a lifetime.

In fact, 75 per cent of children living in the poorest families where both parents moved into full-time employment leave poverty altogether.

And we are taking this even further.

Our reforms will see more generous support for parents claiming the new benefit Universal Credit, which is being rolled out across Yorkshire.

Working parents will be able to claim up to 85 per cent of childcare costs from April 2016, up to a monthly limit of £646 for one child or £1,108 for two or more children.

It will make sure work pays for families on a low income. Parents that want to work should be able to work without the fear of crippling childcare bills.

On Thursday, an official 
survey revealed that the majority of non-working mothers said they would prefer to go out to work if they could arrange convenient, reliable and affordable childcare.

Some parents still spend a third of their take-home pay on childcare – money that could be spent on other necessities.

The cost of childcare has simply been too high for too long.

The official study also found that the most common factor among mothers who had returned to work in the last two years was that they found a job that enabled them to combine work and childcare.

Parents in Yorkshire and Humber are the least likely of any UK region to have regular access to regular, ‘informal’ childcare – that offered by relatives – so the quality of providers has to be up to scratch.

And it is. This Government is increasing spending on childcare to more than £6bn a year by 2020, more than any other government, to make sure local authorities and childcare providers can provide the free childcare hours that are needed.

So I’d urge all mums and mums-to-be putting their feet up on Mother’s Day to have a well-deserved cup of tea, and to have a look at www.gov.uk/childcaresupport to find out what they are entitled to, so
they can plan their family’s future.

Priti Patel is the Employment Minister and a Tory MP.