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Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Businesswoman in Godiva-style protest
A businesswoman has taken her campaign for cheaper childcare to the Chancellor's door, on horseback and seemingly naked in the guise of Lady Godiva.
Jacqueline de Baer is a successful businesswoman and mother of four, who is the founder of de Baer, a corporate clothing company.
The 45-year old chose the guise of Lady Godiva, who rode on horseback naked through Coventry in the 11th Century to campaign for tax reform.
Riding on a former Spanish police horse and wearing a flesh-coloured body stocking, Ms de Baer paused outside the Houses of Parliament before progressing to Downing Street.
"I feel very strongly about this because I employ a lot of women," she told BBC News Online, before setting off on her horseback campaign on Thursday.
Accompanied by her four children and two knights in armour with banners calling for "fair childcare tax credit", Mrs de Baer provided an unusual spectacle for the Westminster traffic.
Afterwards, she said that the procession had gone "very well", remarking that the combination of children and animals always attracted attention.
Ms de Baer is particularly concerned about the plight of middle-income parents, who receive no help from the government to meet high childcare costs.
"At the lower end of the scale there is help for parents. But in the middle ground there is nothing," she said.
"This forces nurses and doctors out of the workplace... Many people in the middle-income bracket are even choosing not to have children."
Of Ms de Baer's 60 employees, about two-thirds are women.
According to her own calculations, a parent has to earn £43,500 to break even while paying for childcare.
She also argues that crèches can prove expensive - particularly if parents have more than one child - and do not cater to parents with "funny hours".
Speaking to BBC News Online after the event, she was keen to press the economic argument for encouraging people to have children.
"We need children to drive the economy of the future. Gordon Brown needs to make it easier to have children or he needs to let immigrants in.
"I don't think we have a choice with the birth rate falling."
She adds that a 50% tax credit for working parents would be the equivalent of a third of a penny on income tax.
The typical cost of a full-time nursery place for a child under two is £120 a week, more than £6,200 a year, according to the Daycare Trust, a charity that campaigns for better childcare provision,
Under the current Childcare Tax Credit system, families with one child in childcare with gross family earnings of more than £22,000 do not qualify for any state help.
Families with two or more children in childcare and earning more than £30,000 are also not eligible.
Megan Pacey of the Daycare Trust, told BBC News Online: "Despite the investment made since the National Childcare Strategy was launched in 1998, parents still face a daily struggle to find - let alone pay for - quality childcare.
"Childcare is a crucial part of the local community like schools and hospitals and needs much greater long-term Government funding."
Ms de Baer laid the seeds for her company while designing beachwear in Ibiza during the 1980s.
Her company now designs uniforms for clients such as Thistle Hotels, Odeon Cinemas and Boots Opticians.
Working long hours after the birth of her fourth child, Gus, caused Ms de Baer to have "a work-life balance crisis" and prompted her to appoint a managing director to run the company.
Her campaign on Thursday for a tax credit for working parents was arranged with the UK's Work-Life Balance Trust.
Ms de Baer carried with her a report by accountants Ernst & Young, which calculates that such a tax credit would only cost the Government an estimated £900m for fiscal year 2002-2003.
We asked readers for their views, but the debate has now been closed.
Do you think childcare is too expensive? Should the government provide a tax credit for middle-income parents? What else can be done?
I agree with Ms de Baer 100%. As a business woman I am apprehensive to have children for exactly this reason. You go girl!
As a career person, I am fed up with the expectation that I have to subsidise people's families. Having a family is their lifestyle choice and should be at their cost.
Three hearty cheers for Ms de Baer. I have job with an employer who understands that the hours of a parent need to be flexible, often at short notice. My wife has a media job with the "funny hours" Ms De Baer mentioned in the story. Although our salaries are higher than average, we need both to pay for a mortgage AND childcare - and our childcare is relatively cheap. As it is, our lives are a chess game in which all the pieces have opinions, and our diaries look like a major piece of military strategy. I have no idea how middle-income parents manage at all if they happen to be single. Middle-income parents are the drivers of the economy, as well as New Labour voters, and Mr. Brown should look upon them with favour. And if I have to read spiteful rubbish from non-parents about favouritism towards parents, these selfish people must realise that children are our future, and they need adequate provision to ensure that their upbringing is safe and secure.
I really don't understand the argument. Having children is a gift, not a right or a lifestyle accessory. If, as a couple or single, you choose to have kids you should look after them rather than palm them off on someone else as soon as they're born.
Does this woman really expect me as a taxpayer to help fund her and her employees child-minding costs, so that their time is free to build up their business & personal wealth? Will they give anything back?
Both my husband and I are "middle-income" earners and are not eligible for any relief for childcare from the government. We currently pay £500 a month for a child-minder for our son. I am expecting a second child next year. We can not afford £1,000 a month for childcare, but I can not afford to give up work as my salary is needed to pay the mortgage - as it is we live in a very modest house in Hampshire and I have to travel up to London to work, as I simply could not earn enough locally. We can no longer afford to live here so we are selling up and going to live in France, where we can afford to buy a house without a mortgage, I don't need to work, and where the tax system is beneficial to those with children.
The government states that Nannies must be employed on a PAYE scheme and cannot be self-employed although they may well do work for more than one family. The parents pay double tax... surely employing childcare is a legitimate expense in order to work and so should be tax deductible. This crazy situation forces a lot of childcare workers to work on the black market as parents can't afford to employ them legitimately.
The government's claim that they want to get women back to work is pathetic. State nurseries don't exist in any great number so parents are forced to go down the private route or employ a nanny. If they do the latter they pay the nanny, including tax and NI, out of there own taxed income. No wonder mothers stay at home.
As a father I agree that the state should help middle income families out with childcare. I think it is terrible that people such as doctors withdraw their crucial skills because they see no other affordable option. What I do take issue with is the rather fantastic sum of £43,000 just to break even. My little one has been full time in crèche, unsubsidised, for a little under £100 a week which is around £5,000 a year.
I think it is a good idea but I have only one reservation. In doing this (assuming Ms de Baer is successful in lobbying the fat controller) the government must not be seen to penalising those who don't have children and making them feel like second class citizens. A great deal of people may want children, but can't rather than choosing not to. A good way of doing this would be to re-introduce the married couples tax allowance.
How about a Tax Credit for those of us without children?
Yes, childcare is very expensive. In my area I will am spending £950 pm for my child. Should I have another child I will have to give up work - something that I don't want to do. It seems that the government just doesn't want the middle-income earners to get on in life, instead of encouraging us, we are the bracket of people who get constantly penalised. I am all in favour of tax credits, I would go as high as 75% though.
I'm sorry but people choose to have children. If they cannot devote the time or money to bringing them up then they shouldn't have them in the first place! There should be no subsidy at all to parents - whatever their income.
Maybe it's about time larger conglomerates thought about creches in the workplace.
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