Letter: Pay parents to stay at home

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The Independent Online
Sir: Polly Toynbee is taken to task by Elizabeth Young (letter, 28 March) for failing to acknowledge that many women would opt for full- time stay-at-home motherhood if they could afford to. Elizabeth Young suggests that child benefit should be increased, up to school age, so as to give mothers that choice.

This has long been argued by Michael Young and Professor Halsey, as a "Guardianship Allowance", payable to the parent willing to stay out of the labour-market and be a full-time guardian. My own preference would be to extend the allowance to cover all the primary years, up to the age of 12 - and to pay it at a reasonable flat rate of pounds 100 per week, though liable to income tax. Child Benefit would continue, albeit at a lower level, to reflect the number of children in the family.

This new manifestation of the welfare state might at first seem "expensive", in the prevailing language of public parsimony. But, as Elizabeth Young points out, the labour market would be easier for those with no option but to depend upon it, educational standards would improve, and crime and teenage disruptive behaviour would be dramatically reduced.