David Cameron and Nick Clegg are being urged to bring forward proposals to help “stay at home” mothers after the Coalition’s plans to overhaul child benefit and plans for a new child care tax allowance appeared to snub them.
Campaigners and Tory MPs including a former minister rounded on the Government, insisting that parents who looked after their children rather than go to work were being “discriminated against” by Coalition tax policies.
Changes introduced on Monday cut child benefit for 1.1million families where a single earner is paid more than £60,000 a year, including many which have a mother at home looking after the children.
At the same time, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister sketched out plans in the Coalition’s Mid Term Review of support for working mothers, which are likely to let working mothers claim back £2,000 per child per year to cover child care costs.
However, critics complained that the interests of 1.2 million parents who choose to stay at home to care for their children were overlooked, with only a vague commitment to help married couples through the tax system.
Several Cabinet minister are understood to have "major reservations" about the Prime Minister's failure to introduce the marriage tax break. One minister said that Mr Cameron "needs to be looking at what can be done for stay-at-home mothers as a matter of urgency."
The 52-page review included 180 policy measures which Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, have committed the Coalition to delivering by the next general election, expected in May 2015.
The document included commitments to helping people onto the housing ladder, further investment in infrastructure and a new way of funding pensions, but it was criticised by business leaders and campaigners for not including enough detail,
On tax breaks for married couples, the review included a vague commitment to “ensure that provision is made for Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain on proposals to introduce transferable tax allowances for married couples”.
However, MPs and campaigners said they were are worried the wording does not actually commit the Government to introducing a tax break for married couples, only for the Lib Dems to abstain from any vote on the proposals.
Tim Loughton, the Tory MP and the Coalition’s former children’s minister, said: “There is an army of parents who work hard at home to bring up their children who are losing out on child benefit and other allowances now.
“They need a Conservative-led Government to put into practice what it said on the tin in our manifesto and deliver a transferable married couples tax allowance in the next Budget before time runs out.
“Trotting out tired mantras about accommodating the voting sensitivities of Lib Dem MPs with very different views on the family just won’t wash anymore.
“Decent parents doing a good job of bringing up their children in increasingly difficult circumstances have already waited too long for a go.”
Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mother’s Union and an adviser to Mr Cameron on childhood issues, complained that marriage was at present not supported by the tax system.
He told The Daily Telegraph : “Marriage, as the best stable environment for both couples and their children, seems unsupported by current fiscal policy.
“I call on the Government to honour their commitment to support married couples through the tax system by introducing transferable tax allowances for married couples.”
Dominic Raab MP said: “Tax breaks for childcare costs will be a massive boon for hard-pressed families, and do more for working women than Labour achieved in 13 years.
“But, we risk creating another category of ‘have nots’, and eroding family choice, unless it also applies to working couples with a stay at home Mum or Dad.”
Robert Buckland MP added: “The decision on child benefit has been made, but it should bring focus on the needs of the stay at home mums.
“Ministers should think about how mothers who are staying at home to look after their children can be better acknowledged.”
Daniel Boucher, a director at the Christian Action Research and Education charity, said Chancellor George Osborne should bring in the plans at the March 20 Budget to leave enough time to introduce them before the 2015 election.
He said: “The announcement of a new policy initiative to help two earner families on the very day that the child benefit policy change that discriminates against one-earner families comes into effect is quite extraordinary.
“It is extraordinary, therefore, that so far, rather than helping one-earner families Mr Cameron has increased the burden on these families whilst introducing no comparable burden on two-earner families and now plans to provide additional support for working parents with no recognition for the important work of stay at home parents.” Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, added: “There is significant irritation about the child benefit reforms.
“People are saying it's not fair on single earning families, including stay-at-home mums. There’s lots of support for giving support for childcare through the tax system. “However, there are some people saying they seem to have done it to appease people about losing child benefit.”
Last night senior Number 10 sources insisted that the plan to introduce a tax break for married couples, which would benefit stay-at-home mothers, would be announced “in due course”, most likely in the March 20 Budget this year.
One said: “The main barrier for women returning to work is the cost of childcare, and this is the main issue for millions of women. If we want to help people back to work, this is how you do it. We simply don’t get stay-at-home mothers contacting us saying they want more money for childcare.”
• Telegraph Money is answering your child benefit queries . Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org