State-funded childcare from 6 months old = Female empowerment?

The Guardian journalist, Larry Elliott, writing at the time of the Royal Wedding, coined the phrase ‘Meghanomics – the answer to Britain’s productivity crisis’ (Guardian 23rd May 2018)Megan Markle describes herself as a feminist and has been clear about her wish to champion female empowerment but is Larry Elliot right when he interprets feminism simply as a matter of economics solved by a nationwide system of universal free childcare for babies from six months old. His view is that free universal childcare would free up women from the burden of caring for their children, enabling them to return to full time employment to fully utilise their skills to improve Britain’s poor productivity.

 

Larryfails to mention the important protective factor to the baby of responsive attuned maternal care:emotional and physical wellbeing, optimumbrain development and human relationships, Placing babies in group childcare has implications not just for babies but for parents as well. A mother’s stress and feelings of loss on leaving her small baby withstrangers all day, or the negative impact on the baby of feelings of abandonment, not knowing when his/her mother will return.

 

The first time I cared for my grand-daughter, when her mum went back to work, she howled inconsolably and clung on to my finger as if to say, ‘Don’t you go away and leave me, too!’  Was this her first adverse childhood experience (ACE)? It is said that if a child experiences more than four ACEs, they are shoring up problems for the future.

 

In last year’s government Green paper, ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health provision:’, Secretaries of State, Jeremy Hunt and Justine Greening explained that ‘one in ten young people has some form of diagnosable mental health condition’. That is 10% of children who are known to the authorities, while there are an unknown number suffering mutely, not just from pre-exam stress but from problems such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and self-harm. These figures indicate a worryingly high incidence of lack of self-esteem among children under14, the ageby which most mental health problems are evident..

 

If Larry Elliott’s idea of ‘Feminism’ holds sway, we are likely to have even more youngsters sufferingmental problems because they were denied the opportunity to make a secure attachment and build a positive relationship with parents. Children who have poor attachment and experienced adverse childhood experiences are more likely to seek a sense of belonging by joining gangs and embark on negative behaviours such as knife crime, a growing problem in many of our communities.