Select Committee on Social Security Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from The Children's Society (PL 19)

  Further to the announcement of the above-mentioned Inquiry, I am writing to express The Children's Society's interest and to offer to provide oral evidence to the Inquiry.

  As a national voluntary childcare organisation, with over 90 projects across England and Wales, The Children's Society works extensively with children and families. One of our main areas of work is with children under eight and their families offering support, advice and activities. We were the first charity to set up Family Centres where we carry out a wide range of group, family and individual work either at the centres or in homes, in local refuges or community organisations. As part of our work on parenting, we launched in 1994 "Education for Parenthood" a highly praised pack to provide a grounding for school students and other young people in understanding what it means to be a parent.

  We warmly welcome the introduction of parental leave and see it as an essential part of providing children with the best start in life. We are concerned, however, that this opportunity should be available to all children, not just those whose parents can afford it. As members of the Parental Leave campaign and through representations to the Treasury we have argued for parental leave to be paid. Consequently we appreciate the Committee's forthcoming inquiry into the matter and hope to be able to contribute to it the experience of our projects and the people who use them.

  Through our work with parents and their young children we are convinced of the value of early bonds between very young children and both their parents and we are eager to see this opportunity extended to the parents of all children. Experience from overseas clearly indicates that where parental leave is not paid the take-up rate is much lower, hence our concern that parental leave should be paid and actively promoted. We are particularly aware of the needs of parents using our projects, many of whom are in very low paid work in financial circumstances so tight that it is impossible for them to take unpaid leave.

  Particularly in need of paid parental leave are the young teenage parents our projects work with who are very isolated and reliant on their partner. They find themselves in private rented accommodation or re-housed with no family in the area, no community networks and not knowing how to access the resources available in the area. Furthermore the accommodation space is tight making it difficult for relatives to come and stay and provide help. Consequently, these teenage mothers (and their children) are enormously dependent on the father for support and practical assistance; and yet he is at work for most of the day and would be entirely unable to take unpaid leave.

  As a national organisation representing the needs of children, we would argue not only that parental leave should be paid but that it should be paid to the parents of all children. It is about giving each child the best start in life irrespective of their parents income or the assistance afforded by the state.

  The Children's Society has provided evidence in the past to the Social Security Select Committee and valued the opportunity to communicate directly the concerns of children, young people, and their families. We hope to do so again, either orally or in written form.

Natalie Cronin

28 May 1999

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