In the run up to the election NCT, the UK’s largest parenting charity, has today launched a manifesto calling for the next government to address the pressures affecting modern parents.
The charity is particularly concerned about the growing commercial and economic pressures faced by parents and the obstacles they have to overcome to achieve a healthy home and work life balance.
With commercial organisations able to buy access to maternity wards so they can sell to mums and dads with babies just a few hours old, NCT warns that parents are being taken advantage of during a vulnerable and emotional time. The charity also highlights the fact that companies make considerable profit from offering packs containing free samples and information booklets in return for new parents’ contact details, which are then sold on to other marketers, while retailers’ baby clubs add to the pressure to buy the latest products and gadgets with tempting incentives and loyalty schemes.
According to a new Ipsos MORI survey commissioned by NCT, three-quarters of parents and expectant parents (74%) say they feel there is too much pressure to buy unnecessary baby products. The fact that parenting information is provided in packs created by commercial companies also worries them - 61% of all 15-45 year olds say they think it is important that essential information is provided by independent organisations free from commercial or political ties.
The new NCT manifesto also highlights the need for parents to be able to access an adequate income while playing an active role in their young children’s lives. Maternity and paternity payments currently fall below the minimum wage and NCT is calling for these to be increased so parents from all walks of life feel able to take their full leave entitlement should they wish to do so.
The charity believes that a healthy home and work life balance is essential in creating a supportive environment for children and is demanding the right to flexible working for all parents. Whilst there have been improvements in this area for mothers in the last couple of years, NCT says fathers are equally as deserving of the opportunity to work in a manner which allows them to participate as fully as possible in the care of their child.
Thelma, 37, from London, experienced commercial pressures after giving birth to her first child last year. She says:
“As a first time mum you are pretty vulnerable and you want the best for your baby. You get sucked into thinking 'I need that' when you don't really. I bought a baby blender and have now realised that a fork will do the job just as well. But you buy all this kit and you don't use any of it. I think the pressure comes from magazines, companies and other parents. You feel that you shouldn't cut back on spending on your baby - even in the recession - you don’t want to cut corners as you want them to have the best."
Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive of NCT, explains:
“The pressure to buy unnecessary or overly expensive goods can mean parents then struggle to cope on the reduced income that comes from having a child, particularly in the current economic climate. As it is, parents on lower incomes often return to work earlier than they would like to in order to support their family.
“Tackling economic and commercial pressures is a real focus for our new manifesto. Along with high quality maternity services, support before and after birth, and clear information on baby feeding practices, we want these parenting issues to be priorities for whoever forms the next government, from day one.”
To help address all the issues highlighted in the manifesto, NCT is urging the next government to establish a commission to explore modern family life, in order to better understand the pressures facing today’s parents and to improve the services available to them.
Belinda Phipps adds:
“Only by taking the time to listen to and appreciate the views of parents themselves from all parts of society can we hope to improve things for families, and therefore build a better future for children.”
The seven promises to parents proposed in NCT’s new manifesto:
1. High quality maternity services for all those expecting a baby
2. The ability to make decisions free from commercial pressure
3. The ability to make decisions about baby feeding and the support to carry out those choices
4. High quality preparation and support for all those with a new baby
5. The chance for all parents to make their own support networks
6. The ability to access an adequate income while also being active parents to their young children
7. The chance to have a say in services for them