Why is the government making it harder to get an au pair?

You will have heard, I am sure, of the Conservatives’ recent largesse towards working parents, as their ‘free’ childcare policy has been much publicised. Fifteen hours a week for your kid, from nine months old to the grand age of four. You may not, however, have seen the new rules governing au pairs, which came into effect last month. Our dear, wise governors, while giving with one hand, have taken away with another; they have placed more obstacles in the way of those who need help with looking after their children. They’ve made it even harder to have an au pair. Children, of course, have a tendency to grow past the

Is Labour saying anything new on childcare?

17 min listen

The shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson is giving a speech to centre-right think tank Onward today, all about childcare. But is the party actually saying anything new on the issue? Cindy Yu talks to Katy Balls and the FT‘s Stephen Bush. Produced by Cindy Yu.

The misguided experiment of British childcare

Everybody agrees that childcare in Britain is an unholy mess. According to a new study, tens of thousands of parents are desperate for ‘radical change’. And yesterday, after a petition bemoaning childcare costs received 112,907 signatures, Labour’s Catherine McKinnell kicked off a Westminster Hall debate to address funding and affordability. Her answer, inevitably, was more state spending — on nurseries, parents, even an independent review. But the awkward truth is that more state interference makes childcare more expensive. We already pour £6 billion of taxpayer money into the sector each year, and the results are miserable. The quality is often poor, staff retention a perennial battle, and closures common. In

Letters: The uncivil service

Uncivil service Sir: The elephant in the room in the handling of the pandemic (‘A tragedy of errors’, 29 May) is the civil service, which has become the problem in government rather than the solution. Repeated disasters of problem management — from the blood transfusion scandal to Hillsborough to the failures illuminated by Dominic Cummings — reveal an inability to make precise decisions, accept errors and move on. This is especially illustrated by the Home Office which is no longer fit for any purpose. The difficulties encountered by the Windrush people are a case in point. The incompetence and sheer nastiness is breathtaking. It is apparent that we are governed

The many contradictions of modern motherhood

There are few certainties in life. Death and taxes are the ones regularly trotted out. However, there is another that rarely gets mentioned: the fact that every single human who has ever existed has come out of a woman’s body. This act of creation, while being a marvel, has also become banal. In Motherhood, Eliane Glaser deftly juggles the wonder and boredom, the joy and pain and the many profound contradictions that attend modern motherhood. Philosophers, child psychologists and anthropologists from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Donald Winnicott and Margaret Mead provide cultural and social contexts for how our attitudes towards motherhood have changed throughout history. ‘There is enormous diversity in the