WBG’s response to the Government’s consultation on childcare ratios

Date Posted: Monday 4th July 2022

cost of livingEarly Education and ChildcareEmployment


WBG comments on the Government’s consultation on childcare ratios:

“A misguided policy that won’t solve the childcare emergency”


 4 July 2022, Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, director of the Women’s Budget Group comments:


“The Government has finally acknowledged what parents, providers and workers have been telling them for years – that childcare in this country is unaffordable. There are 1.7 million women in England that are prevented from taking on more paid work due to the cost of childcare[1]. At a time when families are struggling to cope with record high inflation, they are being prevented from increasing their incomes because they can’t access the affordable childcare that would enable that. The government’s proposal to consult on relaxing ratios has completely missed the mark and will do nothing to help those parents cope with the spiralling childcare fees and the rising cost of living.


One of the reasons we have the ratios we have in England is because we don’t spend money on sufficient training for staff or on paying them well. Just 17% of childcare staff receive any form of training.[2] Wages are among the lowest in the labour market with one in eight earning less than £5 per hour, and 37% of staff leaving their job in the first two years[3]. Our ratios help to counter that high turnover and lack of investment in training. Relaxing ratios now when the childcare workforce – 98% of whom are women[4] – are already at breaking point is misguided and could exacerbate the recruitment and retention crisis in the sector.


According to a survey by Pregnant Then Screwed, 85% of parents do not support the relaxation of ratios[5], while the Early Years Alliance found that just 2% of providers say it would help to lower fees[6]. Free hour schemes are already significantly underfunded and providers are also battling the rising cost of overheads. Parents don’t want this, providers don’t want this and workers don’t want this.


Last year we lost 4,000 providers who couldn’t afford to keep their doors open[7]. Two-thirds of parents are spending more on childcare than on their mortgage or rent[8] and analysis by WBG found that childcare fees had increased at twice the rate of wages over the last decade[9]. And the most important people in all of this, our children, are not getting access to vital early years education that can help to close the attainment gap. This is an emergency that can’t be solved by a policy tweak. What we really need is significant financial investment and a programme of reform.


WBG has long advocated for a free universal childcare system that would provide high-quality childcare from the age of six months, create three times as many jobs as the same investment in construction and lead to higher tax revenues, essentially funding itself[10]. It’s time for the Government to start prioritising investment in social infrastructure and acknowledging the contribution that unpaid care – largely performed by women – makes to the economy. We look forward to submitting evidence to the Government’s consultation.”





About the UK Women’s Budget Group

The Women’s Budget Group is an independent network of leading academic researchers, policy experts and campaigners that analyses the gendered impact of government policy. Our vision is of a caring economy that promotes equality between women and men.


For further information or comment

Contact Sarah Ronan, childcare lead at WBG, on 07587228151, sarah.ronan@wbg.org.uk



[1] https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/uk-policy-briefings/spring-budget-2022-childcare-and-gender/

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/stability-of-the-early-years-workforce-in-england-report

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/stability-of-the-early-years-workforce-in-england-report

[4] https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/uk-policy-briefings/childcare-gender-and-covid-19/

[5] https://pregnantthenscrewed.com/parliamentary-briefing-why-the-relaxation-of-ratios-in-our-early-years-sector-would-be-a-failed-policy/

[6] https://www.eyalliance.org.uk/news/2022/05/relaxed-ratios-won%E2%80%99t-lower-early-years-costs-survey-suggests

[7] https://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/news/article/fall-of-more-than-4-000-childcare-providers-in-a-year

[8] https://pregnantthenscrewed.com/one-in-four-parents-say-that-they-have-had-to-cut-down-on-heat-food-clothing-to-pay-for-childcare/

[9] https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/uk-policy-briefings/spring-budget-2022-childcare-and-gender/

[10] https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/uk-policy-briefings/calculating-the-cost-of-a-high-quality-free-universal-childcare-system/