WBG’s response to Labour’s childcare announcement
Date Posted: Wednesday 28th September 2022
The Women’s Budget Group responds to Labour’s policy on childcare
WBG warmly welcomes today’s commitment by Labour to building a modern childcare system, starting with breakfast clubs in every primary school. Like many of our public services, childcare has suffered from over a decade of underfunding and lack of investment. It is on its knees and we can’t help it back up off the floor without significant investment and reform. While this won’t happen overnight, it is encouraging to know that the policies announced by the Shadow Education Secretary today are the first step on the road to making that happen.
While pre-school childcare is vastly, and knowingly, underfunded by the current government, wraparound childcare also presents significant challenges for parents of school-aged children. Pre-pandemic fewer than one in four local authorities had enough wraparound childcare. Since the pandemic, 31% of local authorities have reported a further decrease in the number of wraparound places available.
This significantly impacts on parents’ availability to work and often results in mothers working below their qualification or skill level in order to obtain the flexibility that they need for the school day. We see this in the high numbers of women working in part-time, temporary or insecure work.
The commitment to expanding breakfast clubs will go some way to countering this and will also help to alleviate the pressure on our poorest families who, faced with spiralling costs, will feel reassured that their children will start the day with a full stomach.
We are also encouraged to hear Labour acknowledge that a modern childcare system needs to ensure that there is provision available from the end of parental leave. The current ‘30 free hours’ entitlement that most families avail of does not kick in until children turn three creating a crunch point for families that forces many women out of work for much longer than statutory maternity leave.
By acknowledging the role of childcare as vital social infrastructure and its ability to drive economic growth, Labour has set a challenge for the current government to meet. We look forward to hearing more from the Conservative party next week about their plans for our childcare sector.
The crisis facing the childcare sector is such that any enhancement to provision could risk exacerbating the current recruitment and retention crisis, overwhelming a workforce that is burnt out and underpaid. WBG encourages politicians from across the house to think carefully about how we can improve conditions for early years staff, the majority of whom are female, so that we have the capacity to roll out both short-term rescue interventions and much-needed long-term reform.
WBG remains committed to working with policymakers across the political spectrum in the drive to create an early years and childcare system that delivers for women, employers, children and society as a whole.
About the Women’s Budget Group
The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) 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. Our work advocates for investment in a universal free childcare system and we regularly produce briefings on Childcare and Gender.