“it is the philosophy, not just the policies, that we need to challenge”

Does the UK’s coalition government have some unsettling problem with women? Are they just hopelessly ignorant about the unequal conditions women face, and the role government support plays in ameliorating those conditions? Can anyone explain to a hopeless lefty like myself, how cutting financial support in the form of (e.g.) childcare tax-credit is supposed to make women MORE independent? I cannot get the logic to work here, which is perhaps why this Guardian article insists it’s the underlying philosophy that’s the problem. Then again, it seems a bit generous to suppose there’s ever anything as coherent as an ‘underlying philosophy’ with this government, especially given the muddle and murk of the ‘Big Society’. What do you think?

2 thoughts on ““it is the philosophy, not just the policies, that we need to challenge”

  1. As an American, I recognise the thinking behind the “independence” stuff, even though I disagree with it very strongly. I think it’s coherent, but involves some obviously false premises. It’s based on an incredibly crude understanding of what people are like, what their needs are, and what independence is: Independence is living your life with no help from anyone. All people are capable of this if they try hard enough. Cutting benefits means people have to live their life with less help so they become more independent.

  2. Before I begin, please do excuse my heteronormativity but it helps to get my points across.

    As I understand it, child tax credit contains within it an element which goes towards childcare. Childcare is expensive (unless parents use the UK’s Sure Start nurseries, which are also having some of their funding cut and/or being closed down) and so in order to go to work, and be independent, women/families need childcare services. Even those families/individuals who have extended networks for childcare very often need formal childcare provision too, especially as, in the UK, we have the highest number of people still working post- retirement age than ever before and an ageing population where care is needed for both young and old relatives. Needless to say, this unpaid care work is almost always carried out by women. Anyway, without affordable childcare, or financial help towards childcare, for many families this means one partner, usually the woman, has to give up work, as it makes no sense to go to work just to pay for childcare. This then, makes the woman dependent on the man and reinforces the male breadwinner model.

    Let’s not forget. Working class women go to work out of *necessity* not out of *choice*. And being dependent on one’s partner is not independence.

    As for single parents, without affordable childcare, well, how can they hope to be independent? How can they hope to survive? Most vacancies at the moment (where there are any) are advertised at around the minimum wage of £6.00 an hour. So based on a forty hour week this means a wage of £240.00 per week or £1040.00 per month, before tax and NI. How can a person pay rent, bills and childcare (which in the Midlands for a baby can be in excess of £600.00 for a full month) on that? Let alone eat and buy baby clothes.

    The best way to make people more independent would be to raise the minimum wage but any government won’t do that because of complaints from small businesses who don’t even want to pay the measly £6.00. Therefore, as ever, government putting business before people. They should be ashamed of themselves.

    In conclusion, David Cameron talked about the ”sharp elbowed middle class” getting the free childcare places. I can only go on my own experience of working in a nursery, but in my home town the free places in the Sure Start nurseries were used exclusively by poorer families and some are being closed down. So much for the ”we’re in this together” rhetoric (which I knew to be a lie anyway).

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