Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Cheaper Not To Work

It’s half term in a couple of weeks. As a kid this would have been cause for celebration and I’d be counting down the days already.

As an adult it is a cause for concern and fiscal trauma.

Not because I don’t like spending time with my family – because I do. The days I consider “the best of times” have all occurred during family holidays or days out together.

It’s because school holidays threaten to break us financially.

It’s fine if Karen and I have holiday to use up at work. No problem at all. We all have a holiday together – or (as we’ve done the last few years) a staycation.

If we don’t we are in serious trouble. Because it means we not only have to keep our youngest boy in ‘pre-school’ but we have to put his older brother into the school holiday club too.

This costs us over £50 a day. For a week this would set us back £250 – or in this case because our eldest boy is off the Friday before the holiday because of a “teacher training day”, £300.

That’s more than I earn in a week.

Thankfully I have just enough holiday entitlement left over to cover the 6 days. If I didn’t it would still be cheaper for me to take the days off unpaid as I would lose less money giving up a week’s wages than continuing to work and having to pay for the boys to be cared for elsewhere.

This seems to me to be utter madness.

And it seems to be a particularly UK kind of madness. I don’t believe this kind of scenario exists in other European countries or, if it does, not to the same fiscally punitive degree. And I choose my words very carefully – because it feels like the state, our glorious United Kingdom, does not like or welcome kids into the protective embrace of its nannyhood. Rather, it feels like it punishes those that bring them into the world.

Now, let’s get my position clear. I’m not asking for freebies or a handout. I’m not asking for special privileges.

I’m just asking to be able to work and earn enough money to make going to work worthwhile.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

Few people work because they love it. We all need to be incentivized. And survival is a pretty good incentiviser.

If I’m not even gaining that luxury, Mr Cameron, give me one good reason why I shouldn’t claim benefits for the rest of my life and loot JD Sports whenever the fancy takes me?



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40 comments:

Being Me said...

Mmmmmm. I don't think that's an entirely UK concept (blaming parents for bringing new life into the world by making them pay).

One of the reasons I've been in no rush to find a job with another employer and continued to forge a very meagre living out of the skillset I have is that it would have cost us so much to put our daughter into care (pre-school age) that it wasn't worth it. I had a short term contract once where I was paid by the hour, a very good sum, but as I couldn't do it and look after her I had to put her in child care and I ended up getting about $4 an hour. If that. So all the hard work wasn't even worth it in the end and I gave it away.

Steve said...

Being Me: hey - you're in pole position! ;-)

You're probably right that this scenario is quite common world wide but living so close to Europe it just seems like a few miles over the Channel families are having it a darnsight easier than we are in the UK. A recent report states that the UK is right at the bottom of the pile when it comes to standard of living. We work the longest hours and have the least holidays and the highest cost of living.

Emmigration is looking pretty damned attractive at the moment. Care to recommend anywhere?

Nana Go-Go said...

No Grandparents around who could help out? You don`t live on benefits because presumably you were given a very good upbringing with the work ethic installed at an early age. Some folks are working for practically nothing these days so as not to languish on the dole heap - I believe it`s called `internship`- exploitation by any other name.My eldest son is one of them and he`s at the BBC, who ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for carrying on this practice. Anyway, back to you,couldn`t you get a discount at the holiday club for low-earners?What about those tax credits you get for childcare? Hope it all works out for you.

Steve said...

Nana Go-Go: we're in the trap of earning too much (though we are looking into childcare vouchers at the moment) to be given help but not enough to make ends meet. I believe it's called the new British Middle Class.

Helen Codd said...

You are right about the European context: in Germany childcare is subsidised and much, much cheaper. When I went back to work we paid £600 per month childcare: it should have been £800 but we got a discount as it was Nick's workplace nursery. we haven't got grandparents nearby as they live 130 miles away (used to be Lillington, now North Leicestershire) and I had to move here to work as there are probably 5 job opportunities in the whole of the UK in a year for which I can apply: in my job it is usual to move around the world. It is so unfair, and makes me angry. I have neighbours with 6 children, no-one works, and their benefits come in at 2/3 of my earnings for a 40+ hour week including evenings. Grrrrr......

Trish @ Mum's Gone To ... said...

Ah now I feel a bit of a heel talking about what we're up to in half term. And you being so lovely in your comment too :-(
Tell you what, come and live in my gaff for a few days while I'm away. Can you feed the fish?

Steve said...

Helen: my wife knows of German friends of colleagues who come to this country and are appalled by how we live. A small example: at Christmas they get a month's wages as a bonus on top of their normal wages. But it's not just the money. It is, as you say, the support network. This country has a real issue with children - they are seen as burdens or as trouble, rarely as people with potential.

Trish: I'd love to. I could even take them for a walk. ;-)

Modern Military Mother said...

It's crazy times isn't it. I am not entirely sure I understand how we find ourselves here. My big ambition is to make childcare tax deductable. I think it should be - it's wholly unacceptable that it isn't I am pretty sure it would boost the economy no end as more people would able and willing to work.

Kelloggsville said...

Grandparents where always my fall back. although divorcing is also a great option as you absolutely agree to not take holidays together:) Now I tend to just put on friends non-working mothers for the odd days here and there I can't cover. it gets easier (and cheaper) as they get older. You can send them to hang around outside JD sports all day to 'Be Prepared' incase it all kicks off.

vegemitevix said...

Nightmare scenario. I do sympathise and have noticed that the kids seem to have more days off school due to inset days than they've had anywhere else in the world! That's a working parents' nightmare. I hate how the 'system' at the moment seems to be geared towards squeezing the middle and providing absolutely no incentive to work in the first place. You can't even get paid to do freelance writing because you'd be taxed at 50% because it would be secondary income! How sick is that? Don't know what to say that could help, but you definately have my sympathies.

Expat mum said...

Obviously I've been in the States far too long (where there's no government help at all), because I was wondering where on earth the government fits in. But I see that it would totally piss me off if people around me weren't bothering to work and doing quite nicely off the government, thank you.

the fly in the web said...

It's because of the mindset that says every service must be run like a business....even when it's public service.
The two are quite incompatible.

I would hate to be in your position...and I hate it that you are put in that position.

There needs to be a complete re evaluation of the financing practices of public services and a new definition of what they are...which should include affordable childcare....but I can't see it happening.

Steve said...

MMM: exactly - help people to get out to work! Not make it so pointless that we all sign onto benefits!

Kelloggsville: no grandparents locally, alas - unlike when I was a kid. My parents didn't know how good they had it! We're hoping that, as you say, once the youngest starts school things will get a bit easier.

Vix: 50% tax? Really?! That's it. I'm downing tools right now. Either that or writing for free. Hold on a minute... I'm already doing that...

Expat Mum: there is a long tradition in this country of living off the state... the names of the benefits might change but the people who play the system do not.

Steve said...

The fly in the web: nor me alas; not under the current government or any following it. The country is too mired into this ridiculous mindset... as I said above; perhaps flying the coop is the only answer?

Gorilla Bananas said...

Yet funnily enough, the birth rate in the UK is significantly higher than in France, Italy and Germany. There must be something in the water...

The Sagittarian said...

You're still welcome here Steve, the rabbit hutch survived the earthquakes you know.
I know exactly your situation, when the Whovian and the Scowly were younger it was a nightmare trying to work full time and keep them in childcare. Then they got older and we had to find school holiday programmes for them to attend, which they always hated and I got the "why don't you stay home" sessions from them both.
It does get easier, just a matter of waiting it out. Sometimes we were lucky to find another family where the mum didn't work, and I paid her to have my kids during the holidays - it was cheaper but you do have to have trust in the other mum!
Sympathies and good luck, maybe you could run your own Daddy Daycare for other peoples kids too if you're at home with yours?

John Gray said...

bring back the 1960s

holidays...... I spent them on Prestatyn tip with mates.....digging for treasure.....watching tv at my extended families' houses or walking the streets....

cheaper and simpler

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: maybe we are just far more virile as a nation than the damned Frenchies, the hun and the I-ties? There must be a scientific explanation rather than me just being racist but right. ;-)

Amanda: run my own Daddy Day Care? I have enough grey hairs as it is! We are waiting it out. Once the youngest is at school my wife can at least go back to ful time employment and then will be on a much better wage. It will also half the amount of care we have to pay for. School holidays are always going to be a problem though.

John: I often think that myself. Economically it must have been an impovement for the country too - a planned shut down for a couple of weeks and then everybody back to work. Bring back factory holidays!

TimeWarden said...

I had a teacher at school told us we'd spend much of our lives saying things aren't fair. He used to stand the other side of the farm gate drinking coffee while we traipsed through the cow shit on our weekly cross-country run!

Being Me said...

Ugh. You don't paint a very pretty picture of your homeland. And I can absolutely see why. Emigrate? Recommendations? Hmmm... you know the bias will get the better of me and I will just say anywhere in Aus! (even though my previous comment wasn't a terribly good advertisement)

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

Our village charges €90 per month for full time nursery (although it does cost extra to have them looked after during the siesta. During the summer holidays the over 3s can attend summer school - which costs between €50 and €80 per month depending on the activities you want your children to do. We don't have half terms, just summer, easter & xmas hols.

But, I think the biggest difference here is family. The majority of working mums rely heavily on their parents or inlaws to take & collect their offspring from school or nursery. I guess europeans on the continent tend to move around less?

Marginalia said...

Steve, not having children I haven't had to face your difficulties.

However, a couple of observations. What do you do about the main summer holiday? The kids are off longer than your total annual leave; do you have to fork out for care at sometime during the summer break?

I'm not sure subsidising the service would help. That subsidy has to be paid for. The usual people who cough up in extra tax would be people just like you. You're likely to be no better off.

I'm afraid things are not going to get better for a while. The overhang of personal debt in family budgets, significant price rises and zero, even minus, wage increases puts many families in a very uncomfortable place.

My only positive suggestion is that you look to see whether you're claiming all the benefits you're entitled to. They're not "hand outs", they're what you've been paying for.

Oh, and of course, get that book accepted and a large advance.

Keith said...

Never mind, you will soon be able to drive on the motorways at 80 MPH, and your bins will be back to being collected every week.

What more do you want ?

Steve said...

TimeWarden: that gate thing was a metaphor for life, wasn't it?

Being Me: Australia is somewhere me and the wife often muse about, I have to say...

Very Bored in Catalunya: 90 euros a month sounds very reasonable and affordable. Our trouble is we don't have any family local to us... so no support network to rely on!

Marginalia: as I've said above, we're looking into childcare vouchers and get tax credits. As to your last suggestion... I'm working on it!

Keith: I can't drive and I've just got used to the fortnightly collections. Bah humbug.

vegemitevix said...

I have to say Steve (and yes I am biased I know), but Aus and NZ offer a far lower cost of living and a far higher standard of living, IMHO.

Rol said...

I sympathise. One of these days I'll write a post about Job Centres that penalise people who try to get work (even if they only earn small amounts of money for doing so) and award people who do fuck all... making it easier to sit on your arse than do what the job centre is actually asking you to do.

Steve said...

Vix: I've heard that from a number of sources... and the Southern hemisphere does appeal, I must admit.

Rol: it's the same old story - those who try get kicked back down and those who scrounge get an easy life.

Dicky said...

I have a solution Steve: make the kids go to work during half term while you have a rest. Make them earn their keep. I remember having that problem when my kids were younger and so my ex *cough*-wife (sorry, still have trouble not calling her the bitch in public) got a job in a school.

You have my sympathy.

Steve said...

Dicky: that's not a bad idea. People still send kids up chimneys to clean them, right?

Löst Jimmy said...

Good post Steve. I certainly have never felt more disenfranchised than I have during the past year. It feels although we are in a society run by Monopoly Men who are happy to rob the vunerable and hard working of their cash while lavishing handouts on the banking class. Add that with the fact the country is laying off 10s of thousands of workers and the Government is ready to criminalise the fact you haven't got a job. And to top it all the Public Sector worker is the new Pariah! It's like an inverted Totalitarian state on a sugar rush.
Sorry for the simplified rant.

Steve said...

Löst Jimmy: not at all; your rant expresses it all perfectly. The pyramid has been inversed and we are all still not just at the bottom but also at the pointy end, getting crushed by the weight of bullshit above us.

lunarossa said...

Totally agree, Steve. A lot of people (especially mums) have to choose between work and kids because of the cost of childcare. Italy is not a great example for a lot of things but childcare is free of charge. (not that this helps much now as there are no jobs!). And so it should be. A friend of mine who's a senior police officer and earns much more than Cameron, not to mention all the perks of his job (free 4x4 with leather interior, free trips to the FBI headquarter and FBI meetings around the world), complains all the time that he is highly taxed because of us with kids. But who is paying for his (and his similars') priviliges and his future "golden handshake"? Us and our children...I sometimes feel sick...Ciao. A.x

EmmaK said...

I think it's about the same here in the USA with most people getting very few weeks holiday and paying through the nose for childcare. Not to mention that there are nine weeks summer holidays here for working parents to shell out for childcare!! Yes I said nine weeks.

I don't know how you do it - or how any two parent working family does it! I'm just blessed to be a stay at home mum I guess.

Moohbahfooka said...

As an NWO MPD agent working under cover as a humble███████████████all I can tell you is that█████████████████████████████████████████
██████████████████████████████.
And then I heard them break into that old Etonian anti-anthem:
...♫ Plebians never, never, never shall be other than wage slaves ♫

http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~noelh/Political.htm

Being Me said...

Listen to The Vix!! :D At least, come for a field trip to see for yourselves.... I could shout you both that coffee I promised all those months ago.

Steve said...

Lunarossa: seems to me the best solution is for me to work in the UK but send my kids to school / nursery in Italy!

Emma: 9 weeks?! Oh my God. Over 2 months? That's crazy!

Moohbahfooka: is this code or something? Do you work for MI5? Or Blankety-Blank?

Being Me: oh, you utter temptress!

Owen said...

Ouch... that's just wrong... and wrongheaded...I guess taking them to work with you is not an option?

Steve said...

Owen: sadly not - creche facilities are non-existent.

Jenny Woolf said...

According to word of mouth, this state of affairs has been going for years and years and years, and I mean since the 1970s at least. One's forced to the conclusion that every UK government of every political persuasion for the last 40 years WANTS parents to find it tremendously hard to fund childcare. I'm truly baffled. Yet one part of me thinks that there must be a reason otherwise they wouldn't keep doing it.

Steve said...

Jenny: it's a war of attrition. The rich are trying to breed us out by making it impossible for us lower orders to raise children. That's my theory. And I'm not at all a paranoid conspiracy theorist or crazy or anything at all like that, honest.

Much.