As Britain’s political parties start launching their manifestos, we take a top-line look at what it would mean for families, should that party gain overall control of Parliament and stick to their election pledges.
Gordon Brown unveiled The Labour Party Manifesto 2010. What does it mean for families?
Many financial initiatives that the Labour Party want to implement will have profound effects on individuals and the families they make up.
- 200,000 jobs through the Future Jobs Fund, with a job or training place for young people who are out of work for six months; anyone unemployed for more than two years guaranteed work; no option of life on benefits.
- National Minimum Wage rising at least in line with average earnings; £40-a-week Better Off in Work guarantee.
- More advanced apprenticeships and Skills Accounts for workers to upgrade their skills.
- No stamp duty for first-time buyers on all house purchases below £250,000 for two years, paid for by a five per cent rate on homes worth more than £1 million.
- A People’s Bank at the Post Office; a Universal Service Obligation on banks to serve every community; a clampdown on interest rates for doorstep and payday loans.
“Better Off Under Labour”
Labour claims that families will be on average £1,450 per year better off in 2010-11 than in 1997.
“A family with one child and one person working full time will have a minimum income of £310 a week in October 2010 27 per cent higher in real terms than in 1999. Tax credits will be increased not cut.”
There are also pledges about keeping Council Tax increases to a minimum and implementing schemes to assist with energy bills.
We know from the pre-Election Budget that Labour plans to scrap stamp duty on first-time buyer property purchases below £250,000.
Additionally, Home Buy Direct scheme will continue to enable working people to rent an affordable home at below market rates while they build up an equity stake.
In education and schooling, Labour pledges:
- Spending increased on frontline Sure Start and free childcare, schools and 16-19 learning.
- An expansion of free nursery places for two year olds and 15 hours a week of flexible, free nursery education for three and four year olds.
- Every pupil leaving primary school secure in the basics, with a 3Rs guarantee of one-to-one and small-group tuition for every child falling behind; and in secondary school, every pupil with a personal tutor and a choice of good qualifications.
- A choice of good schools in every area and, where parents are not satisfied, the power to bring in new school leadership teams, through mergers and take- overs, with up to 1,000 secondary schools part of an accredited schools group by 2015.
- Every young person guaranteed education or training until 18, with 75 per cent going on to higher education, or completing an advanced apprenticeship or technician level training, by the age of 30.
“Zero tolerance of poor behaviour”
“Home School Agreements” will make clear the responsibilities of families and pupils, with every parent agreeing to adhere to the school’s behaviour rules, and real consequences if they fail the live up to them.
Labour pledges to invest further in schemes that reach out to children and families on low incomes, with special educational needs or disabilities, or those children in care.
There is a commitment to reducing the teenage pregnancy rate through higher quality, compulsory sex and relationship education.
Labour’s Manifesto has a whole section on ‘family life’. Here are the main points:
- More help for parents to balance work and family life, with a ‘Father’s Month’ of flexible paid leave.
- A new Toddler Tax Credit of £4 a week from 2012 to give more support to all parents of young children – whether they want to stay at home or work.
Under Labour’s premise that “strong families are the bedrock of our society”, and there is a pledge to financially support any loving, committed couple who brings up children.
Labour pledges to support parents “who challenge aggressive or sexualised commercial marketing”.
The family justice system will be reformed in order to make it more child-focused and family-centred. “Parents who are clear their relationship has broken down and cannot be restored need more help to reach agreement about future arrangements early on in the process, for the benefit of their children.”
Parents will be able to share out maternity leave between themselves after a minimum of six months.
Labour remains committed to ending child poverty by 2020.
Naturally, many elements of governmental policies affect families both directly and indirectly. Here we have highlighted some of the major pledges. The full manifesto can be downloaded here.
Inspired by how much money I was spending on baby stuff, I started up my baby and nursery shop “Hello Baby” in 2007, about six months after my first daughter, Scarlett, was born. It has been an interesting experience and very hard work. Working for yourself is not for the fainthearted, but, if you can make it work, is a very satisfying experience. It also helps to have an understanding partner!
Anyway, here are a few tips I have picked up along the way:
1. It does not have to be ground breaking
TV shows such as Dragons’ Den give people the wrong impression that starting a business requires a great idea. The truth is that most successful businesses are actually rather mundane. Developing a new product is very risky and expensive where as setting up an online retailing business, taking my own example, can be done for only a few thousand pounds.
2. Be prepared to get your hands dirty
If you are not prepared to do almost everything yourself, you will end up spending a lot of money and the results will probably not be that great. Activities such as marketing and PR can be outsourced at great expense, but are fundamentally not that difficult if you are prepared to put in the time and effort.
3. Outsource to the Far East!
I employ two people in Thailand to help maintain my website. These employees cost about a third of employing someone in the UK. I have also used sites like Elance to find cheap web developers to build our blog and iPhone app.
4. eBay and Amazon are a great way to start
For selling stuff online, eBay and Amazon provide a great launching pad. These sites provide instant access to a huge, international marketplace and require very little technical knowledge. We do about 70% of our businesses through eBay and Amazon, 20% of which is from overseas.
5. Keep costs low and start small
Starting small on a low budget allows you to be flexible and make changes as you go along. If you spend a lot setting up your business only to find that the idea has no wings, you could be a bit stuck. Having been there myself, I also think that the self-reliance and attention to detail required by starting on a shoestring is a useful, though painful experience.
Trevor Ginn runs Hello Baby, the baby shop for parents who care.
The imminent separation of a couple, particularly those with children, can be painful for friends and extended family as well as for those directly involved, yet those surrounding a couple often play a significant role in working things through.
A YouGov survey of one thousand separated parents (with children under the age of 18) found that only a quarter turned to a solicitor while three in five sought the advice of parents, siblings and friends.
The notable statistic is that almost one in three said that they turned to their parents (i.e. their kids’ grandparents) for help.
With such significance placed upon grandparents, Child Maintenance Options has launched its Grandparents’ Guide to Child Maintenance that aims to give all the information needed to ensure their grandchildren are properly provided for.
The guide includes sections outlining what child maintenance is and how it can be arranged, how it is calculated and what to do if the couple involved are not on speaking terms or a parent stops paying.
“More and more grandparents and other members of the family and friends of separating couples are calling our helpline, seeking guidance on their behalf,” says Janet Paraskeva, Chair of the Child Maintenance Options.
“A quarter of those using our website are 55 and over and many are grandparents. As a result we have decided to prepare this simple guide to child maintenance. We hope it will provide grandparents with the facts they need to offer the practical support that should lead to more children benefiting from effective child maintenance arrangements.”
The guide can be downloaded for free from CMOptions.org. Alternatively, call the Child Maintenance Options helpline on 0800 988 0988 to request a copy.
In statements which only seek to reinforce the ridiculous lack of work-life balance prevalent in British society, and that continues to erode the rights of fathers, top business leaders have described new paternity leave proposals as “madness”.
Citing yawn-inducing reasons such as “Britain is only just crawling out of recession”, bigwigs such as David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce venomously laid into the government proposals.
These leaders are completely fixated on profit and business growth, making no mention of the rights of fathers or the importance of families growing strongly.
Perhaps Mr Frost doesn’t have a family, or was an absent father?
Granted, giving new fathers extra paternity leave doesn’t in itself make for stronger families, and it isn’t a complete answer to allowing a family unit to bond with its new member, but it certainly shouldn’t be sniffed at.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s another snub to the role of the father.
Is it any wonder that we are an increasingly fatherless society? I think not. Yet the role of a good father is vital to the successful upbringing of children.
I’m not suggesting that other family units can’t or don’t work, but when a family unit has stayed together, for heaven’s sake allow it to grow.
It’s clear from a recent survey that many fathers are pressurised into not taking even the pittance of leave they’re entitled to now.
Yes, more regulation could add to the burden on companies, but we need to balance the needs of society with the need to grow strong businesses.
By Andy Merrett
Jan 28, 2010
Mother to Father
The UK government has announced proposals to allow mothers to transfer the second half of their annual maternity leave entitlement to the father, should they so which.
It would mean that the dad could take six months off work, being paid the £123.06 per week entitlement for three of those months.
Labour’s Minister for Women and Equality, Harriet Harman, suggested that it gave families “radically more choice and flexibility in how they balance work and care of children, and enables fathers to play a bigger part in bringing up their children”, but the Conservatives said that it lagged behind their own proposals.
The Tories have said that they would double the amount of paid paternity leave and let parents take leave simultaneously.
Scrap Maternity and Paternity leave
While Working Families has already called for greater awareness of paternity leave, the Families Need Fathers campaign group has called for an ultimate end to paternity and maternity leave discrimination.
“This should be replaced with an allocation of parental leave to be divided between parents as they see fit, allowing them to choose how they work and parent,” they said.
What do you think of these proposals?
By Andy Merrett
Jan 27, 2010
Fathers denied paternity leave
A recent online survey found that many fathers-to-be aren’t taking full advantage of paternity leave, with 40% of men not taking it at all.
Three out of four of those men said that they couldn’t afford to take the leave, while 14% said they didn’t have enough length of service with their employer, and 13% were self-employed and so weren’t entitled to official leave.
It also found that, because the statutory payout was so low, many men chose to take a portion of their holiday entitlement instead.
Employers to blame?
Others spoke of possible bullying tactics by employers.
“My husband’s company made it difficult for him to take the time off – he’s a manager and even though he was entitled to it, it’s a case of if he did take two weeks off, someone else would have basically replaced him,” said one respondent.
Working Families Chief Executive, Sarah Jackson, said that many companies weren’t aware of the rules and were denying paternity leave even to those who were entitled to it.
“Take Up Top Up” Campaign
“We’re launching the campaign to raise awareness about fathers’ rights. But we also need adequate levels of pay if fathers are to be encouraged to take leave. That’s where employers can come in,” she said.
“Many good employers offer contractual pay on top of statutory maternity pay. We want many more employers to “top up” statutory paternity pay to full pay for the two weeks. Time with a new baby is a great gift to a new family and employers will reap the benefit of motivated employees.”
With the UK slowly struggling out of recession, now is not the time many employers want to hear about offering additional pay for fathers, but when so many companies pay at least lip-service to “work life balance”, offering new fathers an opportunity to build a bond with their newborn child is one of the greatest things a company can do.
Paternity rights: the facts
- Statutory Paternity Pay is currently £123.06 a week.
- Notice period – an employee should inform his employer of his intention to take paternity leave by the 15th week before the baby is due.
- Eligibility – an employee must have worked continuously for an employer for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the baby is due to be eligible for statutory paternity leave and must also meet an earnings requirement to be eligible for statutory paternity pay.
- Advice on paternity rights is available via www.workingfamilies.org.uk or by calling the Working Families helpline on 0800 013 0313.
Are you a dad who has taken, or been denied, paternity leave? Share your experience in the comments below.
The results: Six out of every ten hours spent on the telephone by men from Manchester were to their mothers.
The top ten cities are:
- Manchester, 58% of all time spent on phone is calls to mum
- Leeds, 54%
- Newcastle Upon Tyne, 52%
- Portsmouth, 51%
- Birmingham, 46%
- Liverpool, 46%
- Swindon, 42%
- Grimsby, 41%
- Aberdeen, 39%
- Bradford, 38%
While the bottom five are:
- Glasgow, 4%
- Luton, 5%
- Coventry, 5%
- Oxford, 6%
- Cardiff, 7%
Of course the results aren’t conclusive. Maybe men in the lower-ranked cities spend a lot more time on their phones overall, thus reducing the proportion of time spent talking to any one person (including their mum).
Perhaps some men spend more time in face-to-face communication with their family.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that this is a subjective result, with the men who took part in the study being asked to calculate the average time spent on the phone to their mum as a proportion of the entire time spent using their phone over a one month period.
Managing Director of rightmobilephone.co.uk, Neil McHugh said, “As someone based in the South I was amazed at the results but maybe it could be because us southerners spend more time face to face with our mums than on the phone to them.”
Photo by DavidDennisPhotos.com
Parents are a talented bunch, with multitasking, time management, promotion, marketing and better communication just some of the skills learnt informally while raising a family or running their own business.
Yet employers could be missing out on this workforce because of inflexible working practices and the cost of childcare.
Director of Family Friendly Working, Antonia Chitty, said, “I know that I’ve developed my skills since I left employment and it looks like I’m not alone. Britain’s bosses need to think hard about offering more flexible work opportunities in order to make the most of talented parents.”
Have you gained skills as a direct result of being a parent? Have you been able to use them in the workplace or are you pursuing your own projects because full-time employment isn’t flexible enough for your needs?
Check out our Family Christmas Survival guide for articles and advice.
With one piece of research suggesting that even the best families will argue for seven hours over the Christmas week, or a horrendous three hours per day in the worst case, here are some tips for avoiding fallout this festive period.
Lisa Warner, inventor of FINK family conversation cards, offers these six top tips:
1. Start interesting and engaging conversation: if families simply stare at the TV all day they’re bound to get bored and irritable. Try FINK family conversation cards to get the conversation started.
2. Play family games: group activities are a great way to bond with each other and family games can bring all the generations together.
3. Don’t over stretch yourself: if the thought of cooking for 12 people worries you keep it simple and avoid the stress. Everyone will feel the pressure if you are stressed, so keep it simple and enjoy yourself.
4. Get some sleep: don’t miss out on the fun but remember we all get irritable when we don’t get enough sleep.
5. Take time out: a short break from everyone will give you a little breather and chance to recoup.
6. Ban texting at the table: if your children are texting their friends at the table then they’re not engaging with everyone else.
Rod Stewart recently made a stand with his family by completely banning mobile phones at the dinner table to preserve the art of conversation.
Lisa continued: “It may seem like a simple action but banning kids from texting at the table means they concentrate more and actually engage in the conversation. You have to be vigilant though, some kids are experts at texting without even looking at the phone!”
By Andy Merrett
Nov 16, 2009
Many people believe in the important role that grandparents play in the upbringing of children, despite the fact that Western society has changed significantly over the past few decades, and that the idea of a connected family is quite different to that in many Eastern countries.
That being the case, there are still cases where grandparents are unable to see their grandchildren due to familial breakdown and a lack of communication, and it seems to be for this reason that the Conservatives have suggested that grandparents will be given greater recognition under a Tory government.
In cases where parents split and divorce, new laws could ensure that grandparents are still granted access to their grandchildren, or even be given priority in custody cases, depending on the circumstances.
David Shields, from the Grandparents’ Association, said that the current law means grandparents have no voice or say at all. “They have no more rights than a stranger. They don’t even have a right to stay in touch with their grandchildren,” he told the Daily Mail.
We hear stories of grandparents who, after sharing many happy times with their grandkids, and helping out their children and inlays, are told they can no longer see them because of acrimonious divorce and custody battles.
It seems a great shame that the only way for generations of a family to see one another is through the legal system, but perhaps that’s better than nothing.
In the ideal world, even in split families, children would naturally be able to see their grandparents on both the maternal and paternal side without the need for people to fight over them.
Children so often get used as pawns in messy separations, and grandparents could even provide some much needed stability in times of turmoil.
No separation is totally without mess. Perhaps a change in the law would help all those involved in particularly messy scenarios, while more amicable (or, at least, accommodating) families can sort things out for themselves.
What do you think? Does Britain need a change in the law to boost grandparents’ rights?
While it may not be as serious as those we’ve watched on Freaky Eaters, fussy eating kids are driving parents mad.
A survey of over 3,000 parents by Green Giant found that one in three children have been described as fussy eaters by their parents.
Added to this, two out of three parents say that their kids are fussier than they themselves were when growing up.
One in twenty children hide food they don’t want to eat (one mother reported that her six-year-old son is regularly caught flushing peas down the toilet), while others sneak food onto other plates or feed it to the dog.
Of course, sulking, tantrums and claiming to be full also make an appearance ion the list of tactics used by children trying to avoid eating unappetising food.
To appease the kids, one in five parents say they have to cook different meals for each family member, while a similar number buy special “reward” puddings.
General Mills nutritionist Vanessa McConkey RNutri says: “These findings reinforce the importance of getting back to the table – sitting down together as a family to enjoy mealtimes, without the many distractions revealed by this survey. Kids can be very fussy and encouraging them to eat a proper, nutritious meal can be difficult for parents.
“Instilling healthy eating habits early on in life will help ensure children eat a healthy, balanced meal, rich in vegetables and fruit and get more of the nutrients they need. It will also increase the likelihood of these healthy habits being carried on throughout life. Choosing vegetables like canned sweet corn can make it much easier to ensure children get one of their recommended five a day.”
Healthy eating is a real marketing buzzword at present, as you’ll see if you watch a few food adverts on TV, but it can be a difficult balancing act to find food that kids will eat and that’s reasonably good for them.
Do you consider your kids to be fussy eaters? How have you tried to resolve the issue, or have you found yourself giving in to their pressure?
Share your thoughts, tips and tricks in the comments below.
By Andy Merrett
Jul 1, 2009
A survey found that nine out of ten mums had bought three or more second hand items to save money, with 300% more parents buying seconds this year compared to last year.
Prams, pushchairs and cots topped the list. A quarter of mums said everything they’d bought was second hand.
One couple surveyed had saved up £1,500 which they estimated would just about cover the cost of pushchair, cot, car seat, clothing, a month’s worth of nappies and feeding equipment. By buying second hand, the couple managed to reduce this amount to only £575.
Is there still a stigma attached to buying baby essentials second hand? Presumably it’s not putting anyone off actually doing it.
Given the relatively short lifespan many products have, even though they get a lot of use during that time, it makes sense to hand or sell on goods to others who can make use of them. So long as they’re still in good working order and are clean, safe and hygienic, it’s a good thing.
It’s great to buy new things, or have them bought for you, but parents with extended family and friend networks may also find generosity offers them free hand-me-downs.
Reusing equipment is also a lot greener, too.
Photo by Comsic Kitty