How can things progress amidst a policy standstill?

Childcare

 

I guess I could start any Friday blog of the last few years in the same way. It’s been a week where any sense of optimism that you might have had at the start is slowly battered out of you as the days progress and the dictators, those with dictatorial ambitions, the conmen, the sociopaths, the tax dodgers and their ilk continue their takeover of just about everything. I grew up with a conman so I know how they operate and that it is essentially all about numero uno and passing the blame if things go wrong.

This week, aside from listening to the sound of caged toddlers crying for their parents and concern about this being dismissed as “weak”, there has been the ongoing Grenfell inquiry, the commemoration of the Finsbury Park attack and more Brexit. All of them address questions of what we are and what kind of society we want to live in.

There has also been the Government’s response to a Select Committee report on childcare. As with last week’s report on dads and all recent responses to reports by the dedicated Women and Equalities Committee, the findings have been essentially dismissed or kicked into the long grass. Nothing will move forwards while Brexit is on the agenda. This could be years and years we are talking about. That is a whole generation of kids missing time with their dads, years of soaring childcare costs or unavailable places [as nurseries are forced to close] and stasis on tackling maternity and pregnancy discrimination, to name but a few areas. The gender pay gap has raised many issues about fairness, but on its own, without the funding for proper enforcement, one wonders how much will change.

Of course,  some employers are driving things forward and the skills shortage is focusing minds,  particularly in certain sectors, but many are likely to be involved in a fight to stay afloat in a world of, at best, incipient trade wars. There will be some winners, no doubt. There always are, but we are certainly in for a bumpy ride.

There was also a report last week on Universal Credit, recommending its roll-out be delayed and remarking on the rise in food bank use whenever it comes to town. Unemployment is low at the moment. Who knows what will happen in the near future – prediction is a loser’s game nowadays. We may have been somewhere that looks similar before, but there are lots of variables – an older population which will need to be supported, for one; a highly active global feminist movement, for another; very speedy technological change; global connectedness; the growing shadow of climate change… However, if job losses do increase, if employers turn to greater automation in the face of skills shortages and uncertainty, that could spell a lot more people forced to rely on Universal Credit.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.





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