Pat campaigning for better childcare and worklife balance

March was an important month for me because I look forward to the International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on March 8.

The theme this year being ‘Getting More Women Onboard’, I thought as Women’s Officer for the Labour Party in Greenwich and Woolwich Constituency, I’ll get us, women, and men, together to think of how this could be done. In many households ‘Care’ of babies, children and the elderly is considered the more natural role of women (and for those of us working mothers who have tried to negotiate with a partner or husband to take time off work at sometimes short notices as is in the event of a child falling ill or, an unscheduled emergency meeting in the office will bear me out, that the energy used in arriving at a less- than- desired outcome from the male specie is just not worth the bother!).

Affordable and reliable care arrangements is therefore key to getting more women ‘Onboard.’
Alex Grant and David Gardner -the two other Labour candidates in the forthcoming Local elections helped me organise an event to to talk about supporting women and families in the area. We were joined by, Councillor Jackie Smith, Cabinet Member for Children and Families in Greenwich, who came to talk to us about the facilities are available to us that will ensure that we are able to work around this very ambitious theme of the 2010 International women’s Day celebration.

I just mentioned that I arrived at a local theme with the help of Alex and David, the two male candidates with me in the local elections. I strongly believe that women will need the menfolk to solve a lot of our problems. Why? Apart from the fact that they have created many of our problems through omission or commission by a lot of what they do or have done, at the end of the day we women are someone else’s sister, cousin, mother, aunt, grandma, and certainly, daughter! And, talk about a Dad’s love for their daughters!

So, back to our celebration of International Women’s Day! Emails are sent round and I personally do a lot of leafletting at Halstow Primary School. Councillor Jackie Smith had a good story to tell those present:
Labour has made a huge difference with :
• Tax credits-90% of families qualify for tax credits and many can claim up to 80% of childcare costs.
• Paid Maternity Leave-this has increased from 14 weeks in 1997 to 39 weeks now
• Paid Paternity leave-new Dads have now the right for two weeks paid leave
• Child Benefit-this has risen 80%since 1997from £11.05 to £20.00for the first child, and £9.00 to £13.20 for other children.
• Nursery Education-3 and 4 year olds now get 12.5 hours a week free nursery provision, rising to 15 hours later on this year.
• Flexible working-parents now have a right to request flexible working
• Sure Start Children’s Centres built to provide childcare, early education and family support.

There was a lively discussion after Jackie’s presentation; David gave his own experience of how Paternity Leave had given his family a much-needed work-family balance, and Alex gave a synopsis of Childcare facilities at Blackheath Westcombe. During ‘Discussion Time’, there were points about the need to have separate facilities to cater for children in the youth centres; particular mention was made of the lack of facilities for children between the ages of 8-10 years old; the issue of unhappiness about most parents not getting their children into secondary schools of their choice was raised; then of course a request for more nursery and childcare facilities for Blackheath Westcombe, and other areas in the constituency, notably East Greenwich.

So, yes, Labour has made a difference to Families in terms of childcare, all agreed, and there was the need for more to be done…
Why aren’t there Sure Start Centres in Blackheath Westcombe for example? It’s a matter of meeting criteria as is with most funded projects.

As I reflected over the day and the discussions held, it struck me that all present expressed the sentiment that there was the need to safeguard these gains in our family lives that Labour had brought about. It could only get better under Labour. And that is why we should be wary of the coming elections, and what a Tory government that opposed extending paid maternity leave and the introduction of two weeks paid paternity leave will do in the face of a recession.

Still in line with women, family and life-work balance, and March being the month that focus is brought to bear on how to move the interests of women forward, I attended the launch of the Young Women Fabian on March 18; all present- the younger women, and men, were taken through the early struggles of the women movement and how much progress has been made since then.
I spoke to a lot of the younger women and cautioned that their good intentions in being active in whichever sphere of life they would wish could be derailed without adequate provision of childcare when they got to that stage of their lives.

Not surprisingly, at the doorstep in Blackheath Westcombe, all well-meaning family members (of all ages) had raised childcare and the provision of nurseries as a genuine concern; that, and the advancement of women, and consequently of the whole family are inseparable.

This is my pledge, and I am not alone in this. My fellow Labour candidates, Alex and David are totally supportive of a push for the provision of better and affordable childcare in the ward.
This we know can be done only with the election of a Labour government into power

Just reflect on fact: There are 126 women Members of Parliament. 94 of them are Labour. Need we say more?

Pat Boadu-Darko





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