How Labour Has Neglected The Two-Parent Family

More mothers will be encouraged to hand over their children to state-run nurseries and go out to work under Labour’s latest drive combat child poverty. Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton yesterday said that Labour’s plans to extend childcare places will provide women with a “world of employment opportunities”.

A major report commission by the Government has found that traditional two parent families are getting a raw deal from the state compared to single mothers.

It found that lone parents receive help to find work and support for childcare. But couples with children are virtually invisible to public services because it is assumed their life is easier.

But the report found that two parent families are also struggling to make ends meet and should also be offered assistance from the state.

In many cases, one adult goes out to work while the other – usually the woman – stays at home to look after the children.

Mr Hutton has overturned years of Labour dogma by becoming the first minister to acknowledge that children fare better with two parents than one.

The minister, whose father walked out when he was 12, said there should be “more help, for example, getting the second adult in a household into work.”

He added: “They may not be a client or a customer of the Department of Work Pensions, they may not be claiming benefit themselves.

“How are we going to provide more targeted employment support for those women – and they’re mainly women – who aren’t actually customers of JobCentre Plus at the moment?”

Mr Hutton told BBC1’s Sunday AM that work was the best way out of poverty and that moves to increase the availability of childcare would facilitate that.

“By 2009/10 we will have universal childcare available for every three to four year-old,” he said.

“Now, that is going to open up a world of employment opportunities, mainly again for women but for parents generally.

“I think we’ve got to develop an approach which first of all makes the opportunity to work our priority. That is the best way out of poverty.”

According to recent government figures, rising numbers of mothers with young children are going out to work.

Some 56 per cent of those with children under the age of five have either a full-time or part-time job.

This proportion has increased over the past three years despite promises from ministers to allow women more choice over whether or not they return to the workplace.

It also means that a majority of those with small children now rely on childminders, nurseries or nannies to look after them.

The Office for National Statistic’s Focus on Gender report showed that overall more than two thirds of women with children (68 per cent) go out to work.

In the early 1980s, fewer than a third of mothers of young children had jobs.

Labour is now planning to extend free childcare places. But the plans have led to warnings that thousands of private nurseries will be forced to shut their doors.

Under the current system, private nurseries receive a state grant and then charge parents a top-up fee to help cover staff and administration costs.

But from April next year, ministers have banned them from taking the extra cash as part of nationwide plans to extend free state nursery care.

The number of youngsters who spend most of each day in nurseries has spiralled by nearly a third in just five years.