George Osborne’s plan to give childcare vouchers to families with two working parents has faced criticism for leaving out stay-at-home mothers.
Critics said the proposals are “deeply insulting” to parents who stay at home, and are part of a pattern of financial punishment for them.
On Monday the Chancellor caused further anger when he said those parents who decide not to go out to work are making a “lifestyle choice”.
Under the plans, up to £1,200 per child would be given to families where both parents go out to work – up to a salary of £300,000 between the parents.
The Chancellor told the BBC: “It will help those on tight family budgets who have to weigh up the cost of childcare when they are making difficult lifestyle decisions.
“This is help for formal childcare. Obviously it’s not for stay-at-home mothers.
“I have huge regard for mothers who want to stay at home and look after their children, that’s their lifestyle choice.
“I want to help those families too, I’m not trying to be exclusive.”
He added, “what I’m talking about today are the millions of people who have to work for financial reasons or chose to work for lifestyle reasons”.
But Laura Perrins, from the Mothers at Home Matter group, said Mr Osborne’s comments were “pejorative and patronising”, and the scheme in general was “deeply insulting”.
She added that mothers who make the decision to be at home are contributing to the economy and to society.
And she said: “Staying at home is not a luxury, it’s not a hobby. Women who chose to stay at home make huge sacrifices.”
Commentator Melanie Phillips warned: “More than one million households in which mothers choose to remain at home to care for their children will get nothing.
“Far worse, this is part of a pattern in which such households are being punished financially.”
Earlier this year the Bishop of Exeter said the Government is failing to follow up its “rhetoric” about supporting family life with “substance”.