Inquiry on support for childcare and the early years: Submission to the Education Select Committee
Date Posted: Thursday 19th January 2023
The Women’s Budget Group submitted written evidence to the Education Select Committee’s inquiry on “support for childcare and the early years”.
Summary of WBG’s written evidence:
Early education and childcare is not working for anyone. Not for children, not for parents, not for early education professionals and not for the economy.
Early education and childcare is unaffordable as wages are not keeping up with the high costs. At the same time, the current system of Government support is not working as the take up of support for parents on low income is low.
The absence of flexible, affordable early education and childcare is a huge barrier to tackling inequality. The rapid privatisation of early education and childcare in England with 84% now delivered by for-profit providers leaves some children in poorer neighbourhoods and children with special educational needs and disabilities without any provision at all – with potentially lasting impacts on the attainment gap.
The combination of lack of availability and high childcare costs can block parents’ access to employment. More than half of non-working mothers in England would prefer to be in paid work if they could arrange the right childcare.
Working conditions and wages in the sector are poor. The early education and childcare workforce (which is 98% female) is among the lowest paid in the labour market.
- The Government should map gaps in provision resulting from market dynamics and work to fill those gaps.
- The Government should significantly increase the pupil premium to target disadvantage more effectively.
- Ofsted should assess the financial viability and stability of providers of early education and childcare.
- The Government should launch an independent review of the early education and childcare sector, including the development of a national workforce strategy.
- Funding for the ‘free hours’ hourly rate should reflect the true cost of provision.
- Early education and childcare policy must move to a supply-side funding model.
- The Government should produce national standards.
- Greater role for Local Government in shaping local early education and childcare options.
The Government must invest in a universal and free system, delivered as a public infrastructure service. While the upfront investment is significant, almost all of it is recouped through higher tax revenue due to the returns on increased maternal employment and reduced spending on means-tested benefits.
- Provision that works for all kinds of working parents and their employers.
- Accessible and affordable options for all parents, in all communities.
- Good pay, terms and conditions for the professionals who deliver it.
- High quality provision for all children, especially those who benefit the most.
- Locally shaped options that respond to local circumstances.