Socialist Worker

High costs force low paid parents to cut back on food to afford childcare

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2772

82 percent of people said child care costs disproportionately affected mothers

82 percent of people said childcare costs disproportionately affected mothers. (Pic: Jessica Pankratz/Flickr)


A survey of more than 20,000 working parents has concluded that the government’s childcare policies are grossly inadequate.

It found that 96 percent believed that not enough was being done to support parents with the cost and availability of childcare.

And 97 percent said that childcare was too expensive.

The survey was produced and distributed by Mumsnet, the charity Pregnant Then Screwed, the TUC union federation, the Fawcett Society and a range of other charities working to represent different parents.

One third of respondents said they paid more for childcare than their rent or mortgage.

This rose to 38 percent for those in full-time work or single parents. And it rose to 47 percent for parents from a black and ethnic minority background. Some 82 percent said costs and availability had affected mothers more.

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Parliament was this week set to debate childcare after a petition called for an independent review of childcare funding and affordability. Britain has the third most expensive childcare system in the world, with an average of nearly a third of a couple’s income being spent on childcare costs.

The TUC found that between 2008 and 2016 the cost of a one year old’s nursery provision grew four times faster than wages in England. In London this rose to seven times faster.

Despite the extortionate costs, one in ten childcare workers lives in poverty.

Struggling

The survey also found that those struggling most were the lowest earners, single parents, had a disability or were black.

One in three parents with a household income of less than £20,000 had to cut back on food or housing because of childcare bills.

Around 94 percent of parents had changed their working patterns after having children— with childcare costs a factor in the decision.

The lack of state provision means parents fall back on other family members. Although some 75 percent used private nurseries for childcare, 56 percent of parents said they also relied on grandparents for help.

Joeli Brearley, the founder Pregnant Then Screwed, said, “The cost of childcare continues to increase, forcing more parents out of their jobs.

“We don’t believe the government has a grasp of how big the issue is and the impact it is having on families and the economy.”

Women are most affected by the burdens of childcare.

Just 16 percent of women said childcare had not affected their income at work, compared with 42 percent of men.

Around 83 percent of women said childcare costs and availability affected mothers more than fathers.

Two-thirds of women reduced their hours after having a baby, compared with 26 percent of men.

Forcing the costs and burden of raising children onto the family and women saves the system resources and money—so calls for change must continue to grow.


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