Pay parents to raise children, says bishop

An Anglican bishop has called on the government to pay mothers or fathers who stay at home and raise their families. The Rt Rev Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, said he had always found it “bizarre and unfortunate” that childcare was regarded as being “of less worth than standing on some assembly line”.

In an interview to be broadcast on the GMTV Sunday Programme, Bishop Chartres said he did not want to reverse “the gains that have been made, the liberation, the opening of the workplace to women”, but he said that “we need to realise that childcare, maternity care, does involve very considerable gifts and ought to be regarded as having an enormous worth, intrinsically and for society”.

Asked if the principle of paying someone to stay at home and care for their children applied to fathers as well, he said: “That's very interesting and that's what I was suggesting, yes.”

Bishop Chartres said he constantly met people who apologised for the fact that they were spending their time in “this very creative way looking after children”. He said that in society payment tended to be the way in which people validated the importance of something and it was time childcare and maternity care were regarded as equally valuable. “It requires absolutely everything about us, I mean stamina, imagination, it demands the highest gifts,” he said.

Recognising that many parents felt they had no choice financially but to go out to work, he said: “It may be better to substitute the present economic considerations and pressures which take people away from the home — we're not only talking about mothers of course — by other inducements which actually are supporting stable relationships and the sort of matrix of care which everybody can see is likely to help people grow up trusting, loving and giving in their turn.”

His comments came in the context of a discussion about achieving a better balance between work in the traditional sense and the rest of people's lives.

He said: “I think that we have got to distinguish very sharply between work which is one of life's greatest pleasures ... and the toil, the drudgery which is work that is divorced from its meaning and really uprooted and unbalanced in life. It's an addiction, this kind of treadmill on which people very often find themselves. Justifying yourself by the amount of work you get through is a great trap.”

By Rebecca Allison
9 February 2004



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