Statement From The Women's Equality Party On Budget 2023
In response to the Spring Budget 2023 the Women’s Equality Party, said:
The latest budget is the first time in a long time where women’s demands were put front and centre, and where childcare got more airtime than pubs and potholes. Since our party’s conception, universal free childcare has been at the heart of our childcare campaigning. Back then, nobody was talking about the power and potential of free childcare to transform our economy. It was seen as a niche issue that only affected mums. Now, mainstream parties are stepping up to the plate.
Thanks to tireless campaigning by women’s organisations and the childcare sector, the message seems to have finally got through that investment in childcare has the potential to transform our economy. This potential can only be realised, however, if childcare providers are given enough funding to actually deliver it - including proper pay for early years workers, who are some of the lowest paid in the country and the vast majority of whom are women.
The Women’s Budget Group estimates that just to fund the current childcare places at their true cost would require an extra £1.75 billion. Without a commitment from the government to close this funding gap, and a workforce strategy to attract and retain staff, it simply won’t be possible for more free places to be offered and the result will be that women continue to pay the price.
That price is steep. Women are being forced out of work and into debt, employers are losing out on their talent, and children are missing vital education during the most important years of their lives. Many early years workers are hanging on by their fingertips, and thousands of nurseries have already closed down.
Though we can be proud that our campaigning has helped force the government to take this vital first step, there is no excuse not to go all the way and deliver universal free childcare. Over the coming months as we build towards a General Election, we need to make sure that the Conservatives and Labour commit to universal free childcare in their manifestos:
- Universal: available to everyone and not linked to whether parents work or how much they earn
- Fully funded: unless the government funds the true costs of childcare places, the plan won’t work and nurseries will keep closing
- High quality: current staff-child ratios need to be protected and workers need to be paid at the same rate as primary school teachers
This would enable us to improve the quality of childcare by preserving staff-child ratios and bringing the salaries of early years workers in line with primary school teachers, where they should be. It would also enable 1.5 million mothers to work more hours, adding £27 billion a year to the economy. So what are we waiting for?