In her essay Modern Motherhood, published today as part of 4Children’s 30th anniversary celebrations, the barrister and women’s rights campaigner, says there should be ‘a long-term, and staged strategy for moving towards affordable and universal childcare: for pre-school children, but as they grow up and start school too.’
While increasing the hours for thee- and four-year-olds from 15 hours to 25 hours a week would be a start, she says that ultimately the aim should be for universal childcare along the lines of Scandinavian countries.
In the essay, Cherie Blair also gives a personal account of her own experiences of becoming a parent for the first time nearly 30 years ago, when as a self-employed lawyer she had no right to maternity leave, and returned to work soon after the birth of her eldest son Euan.
'I was by nature a stubborn "scouser" and was determined to prove that I could indeed have it all, both a career and a family life, ' she writes. 'I had struggled hard to build my career and I had seen what had happened to my mother when, after giving up her own career as an actress to look after my sister and me, she found herself abandoned by her husband. With no maintenance forthcoming, she took a job in a fishand chip shop to support herself and her two daughters.'
Cherie Blair also backs 4Children’s community childcare hubs, which the family charity is currently piloting in six areas with funding from the Department for Education.
The hubs provide flexible childcare for working parents by providing co-ordinated childcare by linking up childminders, nurseries and after-school clubs and are aimed at families working irregular hours and outside the normal working day.
Anne Longfield, chief executive at 4Children, said, ‘Cherie Blair is setting out a bold vision for universal childcare, which will resonate with every parent in the land. All parents know how difficult it is to find the childcare they need at a price they can afford and while successive governments have extended childcare over recent decades, far too many families still fall through the gaps and are unable to work or are getting into severe debt as a result.
‘A guarantee of universal childcare would provide the security that families need to plan for their future with confidence. As Cherie says, while it won’t be achieved overnight, parents are looking for a commitment from all political parties now to begin to make this happen.’
- Modern Motherhood is part of a series of essays published as part of the 4Children 30th year Families@30 celebration. Other essays in the series include: Young Dads: Overlooked, undercounted, but out there by David Lammy MP, and The Symmetrical Family by Richard Reeves.