Amid all the talk of Rupert and James Murdoch, it is easy to forget the current news story that will most impact on the lives of people in Barnsley Central; that the UK is officially back in recession.
Labour has consistently warned David Cameron and his Chancellor, George Osborne, that their cuts go too far, too fast and will lead us into a double-dip recession. Instead of focusing on a plan for jobs and growth, our economy has actually shrunk and women have been amongst those hardest hit by the Tories’ economic policies.
New figures from the Office of National Statistics show that in the last quarter, 34,000 women have given up work altogether – this means that unemployment amongst women is at its highest for over two decades. In Barnsley Central, we have 914 women who want to work but who can’t because the Government has the wrong policies, and the wrong priorities.
Labour did much to help working mums during our time in government, including setting up 3,500 Sure Start Children Centres which were heralded by the charity 4Children as ‘one of the greatest achievements of modern government’. However, we know there was still more to do, and instead of building on Labour’s success, this Tory-led Government is failing hard working families. In response, Labour has launched a major review of childcare provision.
Labour’s Childcare Commission will look at how we can provide a high quality, cost effective childcare service fit for the 21st century, partly by looking at examples from other countries. In Norway, parents can access cheap, high quality childcare from birth to age five and in Denmark childcare is free to the lowest income families. The results of such policies are clear - both Denmark and Norway have 10% more women in work than the UK.
Instead of building a system which works for employers, and families, the current Tory approach is that an average family with children will now be hit with a £580 bill because of tax and benefit changes coming into effect this month. We need a tax and benefit system that doesn’t punish mums who decide to work.
David Cameron and George Osborne need to realise that reforming childcare is of huge importance, both for supporting economic growth and for helping hard-working families, and we all stand to benefit from such change.