Dear Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP,
Re: Parents and Early Years workers are at breaking point
We are writing as parents, Early Years workers, and organisations and individuals committed to progress - and we do so to sound the alarm. Parents and Early Years providers are at breaking point, and unless the government acts now women’s unemployment will continue to soar - deepening and lengthening the economic crisis for everyone. This will affect mothers on the lowest incomes most acutely, who are nine times more likely to lose their jobs as a result of the latest school closures and lockdown.
The Prime Minister announced recently that Early Years settings should remain open to everyone, but that is simply not possible without urgent support. Already many Early Years settings have closed their doors, either temporarily or permanently, because of funding cuts, lack of testing and staff shortages. Together with school closures, that means parents - especially single parents and mothers - are in the impossible position of trying to juggle work, childcare and homeschooling. Since March last year parents have been asked to homeschool their children for 110 working days. The result is that women are more likely to quit their jobs or be made redundant, and children are being left behind.
Data from your department suggests that attendance at Early Years settings has almost halved as parents have been told to stay home, and Ofsted has reported that a third of nurseries fear they will permanently close due to the impacts of COVID-19. On top of that, the TUC reported last week that 71% of working mothers have been denied their request to be furloughed. Unless you act now, the Early Years sector will completely collapse and more and more women will lose their jobs.
Will you commit to five measures to keep childcare and parents afloat and help stop the spread of the virus?
- A legal right to shared furlough or guaranteed Self-Employment Income Support for all parents. Currently, parents only have the right to request furloughing and 75% have been refused.
- Early Years and school staff to be prioritised in the next round of vaccines so that they can reopen safely as soon as possible.
- Increase child benefits to £50 per child and maintain the £20-a-week uplift in universal credit. With children at home, household bills are mounting and forcing families into poverty.
- Ten days extra paid annual leave for all parents and 20 days for single parents to help them manage caring responsibilities without the risk of redundancy.
- A bailout for nurseries to stop them closing permanently.
People want to do whatever it takes to keep our communities safe, but they are being pushed to breaking point. Together, these five measures will help reduce the risk of transmission, give our essential workers the support they need and deserve, and protect families so that they have jobs and childcare to return to when it is safe to do so. That is something we can all support and we ask that you do too.
Leader of the Women’s Equality Party
* WE are homeschooling the Government on the realities of childcare. Join in here.