Pre-Budget Report 2004

'Fathers need time to spend bonding with their child'

Richie Barnett spends his lunch hour acting as a "taxi service" between a nursery and relatives' houses to ensure his three-year-old son Fynley's childcare needs are met.

Richie Barnett spends his lunch hour acting as a "taxi service" between a nursery and relatives' houses to ensure his three-year-old son Fynley's childcare needs are met.

The 37-year-old ski and bike technician works a 39-hour week, while his partner, Marion Nicol, 45, a lecturer at Croydon College, works until 6pm.

Richie and Marion rely heavily on family members to take care of Fynley. On a typical day, Richie drops Fynley off at nursery at 9am, collects him at 5pm, drops him with a grandmother or with one of his half-sisters, and returns to work until 7.30pm.

Richie said: "We manage with difficulty at the moment because our nursery is only open from 9pm to 5pm.

"If there were nursery/school after-school clubs from 8am to 6pm, it would make things a lot easier for people like us. I wouldn't have to rush to work, and that one hour from 5pm until 6pm would make all the difference.

"The kind of job I do discourages family oriented people because you work very long and very late hours for very little pay. If my work contributed to child care it would be helpful to have more money in our pockets."

Richie welcomes the idea floated by Gordon Brown yesterday that parents may be able to take extended leave from work when their child is older. He said: "With things like ill health, if there are any safeguards to have time off, that's a great thing."

Fynley's parents consider themselves lucky to have Wheelhouse nursery in Lewisham, south-east London, where Fynley spends four days per week. Costing the family £18-19 per week, because it is run by the pre-school learning alliance it is a lot cheaper than privately-run nurseries.

For the first year, Marion stayed at home to look after Fynley and, when she returned to work, Richie went part-time to look after his son for nine months. He welcomes yesterday's announcement that paternity leave is to be extended.

He said: "I'd recommend any father to take as much time as they can to be with their child - it's very important.

"The nine months I spent with Fynley really helped us to bond. It is the reason we are so close. In most cases, fathers start work early and get home in time to say goodnight to their child. If you have the chance to spend time with your child, it's the most important time you can spend.

"I think it's brilliant the Government has started to improve child care. I think there should be more than one month for the father - more paternity leave - but I'm very happy."

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