Childcare is crucial to the fabric of society. Getting it right means healthier, happier children and adults who are more able to work, provide good incomes and have better mental health. But our society isn’t designed like that. There are cracks in the system as a result of years of underfunding, and the Covid-19 crisis has only made matters worse. We need to take action now.
Why does it matter?
A lack of flexible, affordable childcare has a negative impact on both children’s development and parents’ employability. With costs often high and working patterns variable, childcare is one of the biggest blockers when it comes to adults entering or re-entering the workplace. And children feel the impact of this strain too, with care from adults who (through no fault of their own) are often stressed, tired or struggling with mental health.
Issues around childcare are especially significant for single parents or those without a support circle available. A survey by single parent family charity, Gingerbread, reports that almost half of parents have had to borrow from friends, family or formal lenders to cover childcare costs, showing the link between financial insecurities and childcare that just doesn’t measure up.
When 90 percent of UK single mothers are women, the far-reaching impact of inadequate childcare provision becomes clearer. In a government survey, non-working mothers were more likely to cite childcare issues as the main reason they couldn’t work. And with women at a disadvantage when it comes to getting into the workplace, gender imbalances precipitate and top positions are more likely to be filled by men.
What about Covid?
The pandemic has only laid bare the impact of inadequate childcare on families across the UK. In a year of school closures, financial uncertainty and myriad other social, emotional and physical pressures, securing adequate childcare has become more difficult than ever, with deprived areas suffering disproportionately.
A third of parents have struggled to find childcare since the first UK lockdown was lifted, with half of those with children under five saying the government hasn’t done enough to help them access the support they need during the crisis. A survey by Trades Union Congress found the pandemic has had an especially adverse effect on working mothers, 41 percent of whom with children under 10 are now struggling to find childcare that will allow them to work. This has led to one in six women having to cut working hours to fill the gap.
What do we need?
The UK is facing a childcare crisis. Women are at greater risk of being pushed out of the workforce, falling into financial difficulty and facing mental health issues. And with a quarter of childcare providers fearing closure next year, immediate action is needed to prevent the situation becoming much worse.
We believe every child and parent has the right to flexible, affordable childcare. It’s the key to a thriving and resilient society – in Leeds and across the UK. We’re calling for fundamental changes to the system. Changes that will enable the provision of high-quality, responsible childcare where it’s needed most. But to campaign effectively, we need your views.
We’ve created a three-minute survey to gather the childcare experiences of parents, non-parents and employers in Leeds. When we’ve got the information, we’ll use it to strengthen the case for change and help key decision makers think urgently and realistically about a new model for childcare.