OpinionMay 29 2013

What does Ma think? Ma and Pa might know better

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My daughter is nearly three years old. I have struggled manfully to bring her up in the best possible way, teach her to say ‘please’, stop her from dying, that sort of thing. Of course there have been several people to help along the way: family, friends, paid childcare and doctors when things go wrong.

I’m undoubtedly biased, but she seems a pretty good kid. There’s plenty of time for her to take up glue sniffing in her teenage years but for now, without wanting to tempt fate, we seem to be doing a decent enough job – along with our support network – of bringing her up.

At least I thought we were. I recently had a second child, a boy. The usual joy and sleepless nights ensued as the four of us settled down into a slightly more hectic home life. I planned to muddle along and raise my son pretty much as I had my daughter, but last week I received a leaflet through the door that showed me how misguided I had been, The Money Advice Service’s (Mas) ‘Parent’s guide to money’.

How could I even begin to think I could raise a child without the help of the invaluable advice, sorry, guidance – Mas doesn’t do advice – contained within. How had I got this far with my first kid without Mas’s involvement? In fact, how have any of the poor unfortunates born before Mas’s creation two years ago scraped into adulthood without its words of wisdom?

The first page informs us in big type that having a baby is “a big life change” and then, spread sparsely over the leaflet’s remaining pages are nuggets like “work out how much you’ll need to spend”.

All of the tips within are either plugs for the Service’s own online calculators (the same ones Martin Lewis once denounced as ‘crap’) or come straight from the school of stating the bleeding obvious and only serve to put me in mind of the Saturday Night Live sketch, ‘Don’t spend what you can’t afford’. I suppose that sketch should remind me that there is an audience naïve enough to benefit from this kind of literature, but the problem I have is whether advisers should be paying for it.

I don’t know how much a leaflet like that costs to produce, but once you’ve accounted for printing, distribution and copywriters (crayons don’t buy themselves) and then sent a copy to parents of every one of the 700,000 plus children born in England and Wales every year, ‘working out how much you need to spend’ is probably a bit more complicated than adding a babysitter to some nappies.