Tomorrow, we will all be going to the polls to elect a new Government. We all know the outcome of this election will be fascinating.
Unlike previous elections, pensions don’t seem to be a huge issue this time around. A quick look at the policies put forward by the major parities – retiresavvy has a handy summary of the main pension policies - doesn’t reveal anything particularly radical in this area, probably because of all the major pension changes that recently came into force. It would, after all, be a bit soon to rock the boat.
Won’t someone think of the children?
As someone with young children, I find the childcare policies much more interesting. To a greater or lesser degree, all political parties, even the smaller ones, recognise this as a major issue. In a bid to win the votes of people like myself, the big parties are all proposing increased access to free childcare.
At present, children over the age of three are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week. The Conservatives wish to increase this to 30 hours and the Labour party 25 hours. The Lib Dems, meanwhile, wish to keep the present entitlement of 15 hours but to extend it to two years olds.
You’re probably wondering what on Earth this has got to do with pensions. Directly, it has very little to do with pensions. Indirectly, however, I think it could have a huge impact.
Even though I am a stay at home dad, my family, like many others, relies on some paid-for childcare. My youngest daughter goes into nursery a few mornings a week. Without this support I would get no housework done. Relying on paid-for childcare also enables me to do a little freelance work, which brings in much-needed income.
Childcare – a considerable cost
Unfortunately childcare is phenomenally expensive. Our youngest child is two and so we don’t qualify for any free childcare. In fact, the cost is so high that my wife and I have already reduced the number of hours our daughter attends nursery. We’re constantly thinking about cutting her hours further, simply because of the pressure on our finances.
Nursery fees are our third biggest outgoing. If we were to qualify for some free childcare, even just a few hours a week, it would make a massive difference to us as a family. I can also tell you exactly where we would be investing money that we previously spent on childcare; it would be ploughed into pensions to secure a decent retirement for my wife and me.
For the past four years I have been the main carer for my children. I did this knowing my retirement income would suffer. A little bit of free childcare would help me put this right.
For many families, increased childcare provision could have a radical impact. It would enable many more mums (and indeed, dads like me) to enter the workforce. Even if they only worked part-time, they would, in this age of auto-enrolment, get to make some pension provision. It may not be much, but we all know that something is better than nothing.
When I vote on 7 May, childcare will be at the forefront of the decision I make. I won’t be thinking of the short term. I’ll be thinking in terms of which party will provide stay at home parents like myself with the ability to invest for their future. The key to that, I believe, will be providing us with a good, fair childcare package.
What do you think? Is childcare a priority? Perhaps you’re a grandparent providing childcare or a stay-at-home parent worried about the effect on your pension? Lets us know in the forum.
This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.
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