For many people in the UK the cost of childcare is simply unaffordable; so much so that for low income families it can be cheaper not to work at all. According to data from the OECD families on minimum wage and incomes below average pay a higher percentage of earnings to childcare than most other developed countries.
Research from the Trade Union Congress (TUC) that came out at the start of September states that for the average family monthly childcare fees have reached £1,000 a month. They predict that by the end of the decade this figure could easily double in some areas of the UK.
This is mirrored by a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) that states children from richer parents receive better care than those from poorer parents and that some workers have to leave their jobs as they are simply worse off. Low earners can face ridiculously high effective tax rates of up to 130% if they work more than 25 hours a week.
In a report on this issue by the Guardian it is suggested that someone working for £10.50 an hour with a partner on a similar amount would pay £3.50 for every hour they worked over 25 hours.
The IPPR report suggests that it is women who are bearing the brunt of this, as they generally are the ones returning to the workplace and entering into these low paying jobs where they have to pay to get back into the workplace.
The Chancellor’s recent budget has done nothing to rectify this; if anything it has exacerbated the situation. As part of the budget people working part-time will face benefit cuts if they don’t work more hours or earn more. Women make up 74% of the part-time workforce and also make up 57% of the involuntary part time work force (people who feel they have no other option but to work part-time). Women are the ones in this part-time position due to the responsibilities of having and caring for children.
The UKs childcare system is in a mess but efforts are being made to rectify this; MotheRED, a campaign set up by Labour MP Stella Creasy that works towards policies to help with childcare burden and actively gives grants to women to help with costs.
During the Labour conference a commitment to rebuild the childcare system has been announced. Figure headed by a commitment for free breakfast clubs in schools, helping not only feed children but also free childcare allowing parents to go to work and not worry about the cost of doing so.
But is this enough? The report by the IPPR that I’ve been referencing throughout this article outlines measures that it urges the government to adopt.
- Recommending introducing 15 hours of free childcare for 48 weeks a year for preschool aged children.
- Increase wrap-around care through schools from 8am to 6pm like breakfast clubs and after school study.
- Introduce an affordable housing scheme covering 60-95% of the costs for additional care depending on household income.
There has been no news on this issue from the government. With the catastrophic fall out of the Chancellors mini-budget, the collapse of the pound and the rising cost of energy, the mess which is the UK childcare system will only get worse. However, the ones that are suffering the most through all this are the ones with no power to change the situation: Children. Figures from the charity Action for Children state that 3.9 million children are currently living in poverty, a figure that if nothing is done about the cost of childcare is sadly expected to rise.