Nick Clegg has been attacked on live radio by a full-time mother who rebuked him for discriminating against women who stay at home to look after their children.
During Mr Clegg’s weekly phone-in slot on LBC radio, Laura, from East Dulwich in south London, told the Deputy Prime Minister that Coalition’s flagship new policy of subsidising childcare for parents who work was unfair.
She pointed out that the new vouchers worth up to £1,200 came at the same time as ministers were cutting child benefit from families with one parent earning more than £50,000 – even if their partner stayed at home to look after children.
She told Mr Clegg: “You probably think what I do is a worthless job. I’m just wondering why the Coalition is discriminating against mothers like me who care for their children at home.
“The Treasury know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Laura, whose last name was not given, told the Liberal Democrat leader that child benefit had been “a fair way of recognising everybody’s legitimate choice” either to go out to work or to “work inside the home”.
“You’ve essentially abolished that for families like me and replaced it in some way with this which applies only to mums who go out to work,” she said.
Laura said that even working mothers recognised that caring for children full time was “a difficult job”. She told Mr Clegg: “By taking away our child benefit and not replacing it with anything, you’re clearly discriminating against us.”
The Deputy Prime Minister insisted that he respected Laura’s decision to care for her own children rather than take a paid job.
“Like everybody, I massively admire your choice,” he said. “You should be entirely free and proud of the choices you make in your own life to look after your own children in the way that you want. I hope no politician would ever seek to judge you for that.
“This is all about what we can do in government to give people the greatest choice that they want and need in their own lives.”
Under the reforms announced this week, from the autumn of 2015, working parents will be able to claim vouchers to subsidise nannies or child care for every child under five. The allowances are expected to be extended to all children under 12 by the end of the decade.
The plan will initially benefit 1.3 million families, who will be able to claim up to £1,200 for each young child — rising to 2.5 million families when the scheme is extended.
They will effectively not have to pay basic-rate tax on the first £6,000 they spend on child care.
Downing Street was criticised earlier this week for suggesting that working parents had a “greater need” for the subsidies than those who care for their children full-time.