Women's Equality Leeds Blog

No Longer Childs Play: Childcare Costs and Current Consequences

In October 2017, it was widely reported that the average childcare cost in England rose seven times faster than wages.  In fact, the cost of child care sky-rocketed by 48% between 2008 and 2016a period when wages fell,1 and in Yorkshire and the Humber, the cost of childcare climbed by almost four times more than wages did.1

At the time, Trade Union Congress General Secretary, Frances O’Grady reflected on these astonishing and unfortunate statistics, emphasizing the vital importance of government-funded initiatives. 2

“Parents need subsidized, affordable childcare from as soon as maternity leave finishes to enable them to continue working, and so mums don’t continue to have to make that choice between having a family and a career.”2

To tackle this problem, the Conservative government launched the woefully inadequate ‘30 hours free childcare’ scheme. Under the scheme, working parents of children aged between three and four who are lucky enough to find a childcare provider offering free places (providers are free to opt out of the scheme) are entitled to 30 hours of childcare a week, for 38 weeks a year, with no cost to them. However, to fund this the government only offer providers, on average, £4.59 per hour per child. A subtraction of 7% is then made to this amount, to be retained by local authorities for administrative purposes.3

Research4 has found that hour for hour, pound for pound, the rate childcare providers receive from the government is not enough to match the cost of providing childcare. A staggering 74% of childcare providers say the current funding rate is less than the cost of a place, meaning there is an average shortfall of 18% per ‘free’ place when it comes to funds5. Furthermore, information from the Pre-school Learning Alliance5 details that 49% of childcare providers plan to increase how much they charge for additional (non-government funded) hours as a result of the current scheme. Proposals of this kind include charging extra for meals, snacks and trips for the children.5 Simply put, insufficient funding from the government is resulting in costs having to be made up by others—parents who are already struggling to cover childcare costs.



Our branch team surveying the parents of Leeds about Childcare Costs on Briggate
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With canvasing now in full swing, it has been a great few weeks for WEP Leeds!  So far, we have knocked on over 2000 doors - but there is a lot more to do.  The inclusion of Hyde Park in the new Headingley and Hyde Park ward means an extra 6,700 voters have been added to the area - a roughly 50% increase! Though this is a potentially daunting prospect, with your help it need not be.

We need our members in Leeds to come out and canvass to ensure we have a councillor who puts equality at the heart of everything they do. Understandably, everyone is nervous about their first-time canvassing.  It is hard not to imagine a Paxman-esque figure answering the door, expecting you to be able to recite a detailed critique of each page of the WEP manifesto!  However, the reality is quite different.  In fact, the initial feeling can be one of anti-climax - nobody answers the door for the first six or seven times you knock!  Once somebody does answer, you quickly realise it is not nearly as daunting as you first imagined. 

As Laura Wood, WEP Leeds founding member, recently found, her worries about canvasing quickly evaporated as soon as she got started, “on my way to my first day of canvassing in last year’s general election, I was so nervous I looked like a rabbit in the headlights! But when I got there everyone was real friendly and it was all very laid back. I was paired up with someone who I’ve since become good friends with and when I got used to what to say and got some confidence I started to really enjoy it. Canvassing for WEP has brought out a side of me I didn’t know was there and I’m so glad I overcame my initial fears and got involved.”


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