Should parents who stop work to rear kids get state pension credits?

This is Money is campaigning on behalf of parents who end up with a smaller state pension because of mistakes over child benefit forms.
We asked Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts what users of her site think about the issue, and she revealed they are split over the issue of whether parents who stop work should even get any extra help with their state pension.
She also explains how motherhood still burdens women financially, and the ways this could be addressed.
Mumsnet users tend to be pretty savvy about financial issues, and despite the almost willfully complex rules, the problem with child benefit eligibility and missing National Insurance credits has been picked up and discussed on our Talk forums. 
However, it's fair to say that the topic is rather polarised.
Some Mumsnet users argue that such payments are an important way to recognise child-rearing as the hard, valuable work that it is.
'You can't just punish people who are being useful members of society. And bringing up children is a very useful thing to do,' says one.


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Another brings up the paucity of affordable childcare: government-subsidised childcare hours don't kick in for most parents until their child is three, more than two years after paid maternity leave ends for most mothers, and the gap causes a lot of problems.
'Are you going to provide free or subsidised childcare so that women can get back to work as soon as they've given birth?'
And then there are those who say - particularly in an age of fierce austerity - that if a parent can afford to give up work entirely, then pretty much by definition they shouldn't get extra help.
'Why should you be given NI contributions when you're not working and not paying NI?', says one.
'Some use children as a reason not to work', says another: 'this needs to be discouraged, and [missing out on NI credits] would certainly disincentivise it.'
One thing that matters a great deal to both sides, though, is the long-term financial health of women who have children.
Taking a step back from the slightly Kafkaesque rules around claiming-but-not-receiving child benefit, and the politically difficult optics of giving NI credits to high-earning families, the one thing many Mumsnet users would agree on is that mothers seem to be responsible by default for the bulk of child-rearing and domestic work.
The consequences for women's careers, incomes, financial stability and independence are real and serious.
When we say 'stay-at-home parents', we're mostly talking about mothers: ONS data from 2017 estimated that there were 1,860,000 stay-at-home mothers and 232,000 stay-at-home fathers. 
Mothers encounter prejudice and judgement whether they go back to work or not. 
Frankly, whatever you do, someone somewhere will think you're doing the wrong thing, and will often let you know about it.
Mothers tend to become wearily immune to this running commentary. 
But it can come as a shock to find out that whether you work or not, the simple fact of being a mother will put you at greater risk of having a small pension and an impoverished old age.
Having a decent household income - usually because of a spouse's salary or pension - in the here and now doesn't mean things will always be that way; women living comfortably can suddenly find themselves in very different circumstances.
On Mumsnet and our sister site Gransnet we regularly see posts from women - particularly after bereavement or separation - who are in financial difficulty because they have not built up independent sources of income, savings or pension payments. 
Even those who continue to do paid work (and most do; 72 per cent of mothers were in paid work in 2015, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies) will usually earn less and be less senior in their jobs than their children's fathers.
There's a wealth of data illustrating the swingeing 'motherhood penalty' faced by those who return to work; the IFS describes it as 'a gradual but continual rise in the wage gap... by the time the first child is aged 12, women's hourly wages are a third below men's.'
So whatever their personal choices, mothers risk facing an income crisis as they grow older.
Only 37 per cent of women were contributing to personal pensions in 2013-14, compared to 63 per cent of men, and women are less likely to qualify for a full state pension because of gaps in NI payments.
According to Age UK, 23 per cent of single women pensioners live in poverty, compared to 18 per cent of single men pensioners and 13 per cent of pensioner couples. 
Encouragingly, we could be on the brink of a generational change in attitudes. There's some evidence that millennial dads are more positive about sharing childcare responsibilities than their fathers.
According to research by Working Families, 47 per cent of millennial dads would be willing to take a pay cut to achieve a better work-life balance, compared with 38 per cent of fathers overall. 
If the government took steps to make statutory paternity pay higher, and if dads take on their fair share of childcare (and all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry and appointment-arranging that goes alongside it), we might finally see a cohort of mothers who can truly have it all without losing their minds - or their money.

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