Walthamstow’s Labour MP, Stella Creasy was told she was breaking the parliamentary rules after bringing her three month old child into the House of Commons last week.
She’s not he only one having childcare troubles.
The unavailability and rising cost of childcare for working parents hits poorer parents—and especially women—hardest.
Jesska is a parent in Staffordshire, who was forced to leave her job during the pandemic in order to care for her child.
Now she is finding it difficult to find a job that pays enough and is flexible.
She told Socialist Worker, “Childcare isn’t even considered by companies—I’ve applied for jobs that don’t allow me to pick up my son from school.
“It is an absolute miracle if you find a workplace that has an in-house nursery.”
Many women are forced into second jobs to pay for childcare, or to leave work altogether because they cannot afford the fees.
That women are made to feel responsible for navigating the crisis reflects the idea that women’s main role in society is that of a “caregiver”.
And, the low paid but more flexible jobs that many women have to take are in turn used to suggest that women’s work is secondary. It is a way of holding down all women’s wages.
“I just couldn’t work during most of the pandemic,” said Jesska. “Working in distribution cannot be done from home, I was considered a key worker. It wasn’t fair to leave my child with my mother—who’s vulnerable—or to send my child into a nursery with kids getting Covid.
“It got to the point where I was doing the maths and with childcare costs taken from my wage, I wouldn’t be much worse off leaving the job and signing on. Jesska and her child rely on both support from her parents and child benefit but, “I only get like, £20 from them,” she said.
The government claims to do enough to provide adequate childcare funding.
One initiative is 30 hours of free care each week during term time for three and four year olds. But campaigners argue the government doesn’t fund these places adequately.
With the Tories relying on private companies to provide care, firms reclaim money from charging under threes more.
When asked about the impact of the rising cost of living Jesska described it as “just upsetting”.
“It’s definitely ruining my mental health, it also has an impact on my son that I worry about.”
Women are most affected by the lack of childcare.
In a survey of 20,000 working parents, 16 percent of women said childcare hadn’t affected their income or seniority at work, compared to 42 percent of men. This is beneficial to the bosses, keeping a mother at home with the children, while a male partner is able to work long hours.
Creasy and Jesska are right, parents aren’t heard and we must start demanding change and public ownership of childcare services.
A third of childcare providers in Northern Ireland are planning to put up prices as they suffer inflating costs.
The research, conducted by Employers For Childcare found that a significant number of childcare providers were experiencing a “distressed” financial situation.
This expands further than just Northern Ireland.
Many childcare providers are facing closure and with government funding low, the responsibility for payment falls onto the parents.
Some 28 percent of families said they are struggling to find and afford suitable childcare.
Covid exposed the childcare crisis on a huge scale. More parents and carers are returning to work, with no furlough or additional childcare services to support them.
This doesn’t just hit parents and children. Many childcare workers—95 percent of them women—suffer poverty wages.
The survey suggests that many providers say they won’t be able to afford the minimum wage increase. To defend their profits they will make job cuts.
As we reach a new phase of the Covid pandemic the government must adequately fund childcare so parents have the choice to return to work or not.
Fifty hours of childcare each week for a child under two in nursery will set you back £13,700 on average according to Coram, a childcare charity.
The cost rose by around 4.5 percent in the year starting April 2019. Wages rose just 3.6 percent according to the Office for National Statistics.
The situation is forcing parents, usually mothers, to leave work and provide childcare themselves to keep costs down.
Sarah is a parent and teaching assistant in Shropshire. When two of her children were in nursery her “entire wage went on childcare,” she told Socialist Worker.
“I changed my job because my previous job, in admin, meant I couldn’t pick up my children from school and nursery—the commute was just too long.
“I got a job in a local school, doing the same thing, to fit in with school times and holidays.
“I didn’t want to pay for childcare for three children across the holidays.
“It would have been a nightmare, I wouldn’t have had any money,” she added.
Sarah outlined some of the pressures mothers face in work and when trying to access childcare, “It’s always been too expensive,” she said.
“When I started the job, I got pregnant and had been there just long enough—to the day—to be entitled to maternity pay.
“One of the worst things was that over the school holidays I still had to pay for childcare, despite not sending my children there.”
A parent earning the average salary of £25,057 would pay 54 percent of their wage on childcare for an under two year old child.
With rent, additional children and other essential costs, the system is unsustainable.
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