Politicians are quick to respond to the report which states it simply does not pay to work for many British families.
The cost of childcare has always been a contentious and heavily debated issue. A report, however, released today shines a worrying light on the true cost of childcare suggesting it is so high that for many families going back to work is simply not an option.
The Family and Childcare Trust’s report is based on its annual survey which collates data from 196 local authorities. It shows a trend of increasingly expensive child care which is unaffordable on a minimum wage. A rise of 5% each year it now costs £6,000 annually to put a child into care whilst parents work. The government is under increasing pressure to enact some kind of provision to help families struggling with the cost of childcare. Whilst successive governments have tried to invest by offering free places and the sector has not seen huge cuts compared to other public services the problem is still worsening.
The report summarised that for many families ‘it simply does not pay to work,’ thus it is more economically viable for one parent to stay at home and look after the children than to work and pay for childcare. This is due to the ever increasing gap between the cost of childcare and the amount that can be claimed under working tax credits. The report accredits the increasing cost of places for under-twos to both the artificially lowered prices during the recession and parents having to subsidise the free places given to disadvantaged children under government schemes.
Providing free places to a small amount of children whilst benefiting them, the report suggests, increases the price for other low-income families. Whilst these children must remain protected, the government must do more to ensure that all families are able to have access to affordable childcare. The report urges all political parties to take the findings on board and join together in reviewing the childcare system as a whole.
With the next general election speeding ever closer, opponent political parties have been quick to propose their solutions to this growing problem. Whilst costs have risen 32.8% under this government a spokesperson from the Conservative party claimed that the figures have been taken out of context. Sam Gyimah MP, Childcare Minister stated the report failed to include the ‘record amount’ of places which are fully-funded given to children and only took into account prices parents pay after they have received the 15 free hours. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems conceded that rising costs are a real problem and have pledged to try and tackle the issue. Nick Clegg promised that the Liberal Democrats would ensure 15 hours of free childcare a week for every two year old and also for those younger children whose parents work full time.
The Labour Party have similarly been quick to condemn these figures even suggesting that the cost-rise could be more than the report initially suggests. They have pledged to offer free childcare not only to 2-year-olds but even those up to the age of 4. They also propose extending the free care available up to a 25 hour week and doubling the amount of Sure Start centres.