Soapbox : A Letter to Gordon Brown

21 September 2008

This is an open letter to the Prime Minister.

What on earth are you thinking? I was driving home after collecting my Sunday papers when I heard on the radio that your plan for parents and their children is to offer free child care places in nurseries for children aged two years so that mothers can return to work.

Why would you do that? Why would you make the family the lowest priority on your agenda? Don’t you realise that the family is failing its children? Hasn’t it occurred to any of your advisers that until it is made easier for parents, especially mothers, to remain at home to care for their children by providing more money and better support systems so that they do not feel under pressure to return to work, there will be no improvement to the way increasing numbers of children in this country are raised?

Why would you consider that making it ‘easier’ (read obligatory) for children to be looked after in group care settings is the answer to the horrendous problems we face in this country? In a time when parents should be encouraged to face up to their responsibilities, setting and maintaining boundaries for their children’s behaviour and being accountable for what their children do, your Government is planning to put in place even more opportunities for mass child care.

In a typical nursery, a child may be tended to by up to five or more different workers in any one day. Some of them may be permanent staff members, some will be agency employees or trainees. How does this help the essential process of attachment? Doesn’t anyone read Bowlby or his ilk any more?
Have no lessons been learned from the fact that we have the most miserable children in the world and that in primary schools across the globe those children who have been cared for in group day care are among the most aggressive and violent?

How much more expensive would it be to provide additional money and other supportive measures so that parents could actually do that – become parents to their own children? Being a good parent isn’t automatic. It requires practice.
If a couple or single person produces and chooses to keep a child, it should be their responsibility in the first instance to ensure that the child grows into a mature, stable, self-confident and reliable adult. I don’t think that your Ministers have considered the potential impact or knock-on effect of removing yet another duty that parents should have, Mr Brown.

I despair for the children of this country. I am frightened for all those families where a child will be killed by peers. I do not know where to live to protect my grandchild from the abuse of assessment and pointless tests. I do not know how to beat a punitive system which pretends to be benevolent by offering a golden gift, but which hides behind its back a dagger with can stab the heart of the family and let it bleed to death by taking away its responsibilities and urging mothers to reduce their commitment to family life.

Stop putting pressure on mothers to return to work. For those who choose to, that’s fine. But for those who wish to be the main role model and carer of their child, give them the chance and stop making them feel that somehow the future of the national economy rests on their shoulders.

When you became Prime Minister, you said, “Trust me”. Show me that I was right to believe you.

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