Labour’s spokesperson for children, young people and skills, Cllr Jackie O’Quinn, on the impact of soaring childcare costs:
On the 29th of October this year there was a March for the Mummies’ in London. Thousands of women and men gathered in Trafalgar Square to demonstrate against the high costs of childcare in the UK which makes it difficult – for women especially – to go back to work after maternity leave.
Childcare costs in the UK are some of the highest in Europe and sometimes a woman can lose the majority of her salary on childcare costs when returning to work and this carries on until her child(ren) start at school.
This has been an issue for many women for decades now and it’s interesting to note that during WW2 Ernest Bevin, who was Minster for Labour in the National Government, was able to have free creches supplied in workplaces where women were employed. These were removed at the end of the war as the drive was for men to return to the workplace.
So, if it could be done then why not now, or at least have the cost more heavily subsidised to enable more women to return to the workplace? There are subsidies in place, but they are not high enough and they don’t start until a child is two – subsidies need to start at 6 months or a year.
The government is adding insult to injury by now changing regulations regarding nurseries and stating that 15 children can be looked after by one nursery assistant. This is meant to save on costs but means that nursery carers, who are poorly paid as it is, will have even more work and responsibility. Will they stay and put up with this?
At the council’s recent Children, Young People & Skills Committee meeting, early years provision was on the agenda and there were some serious financial implications. There had been a recent consultation on the nursery funding formula for 3- and 4-year-olds and the illustrative rates for Brighton & Hove indicated an increase in funding from £4.79 in the next year to £5.96 in the following year. However, the Department for Education (DfE) is planning to cap funding increases at 4.4%, which would mean that instead of a £1.17 increase locally, there would only be a 21p increase (obviously, far outstripped by inflation and thus a cut in real terms).
The situation is similarly mean-spirited in funding for 2-year-olds for nursery. Brighton & Hove receives some of the lowest amounts in the funding formula for nursery care in England. Both West and East Sussex receive far higher rates than we do. This places an unacceptable burden on nurseries especially when inflation is running at such a high level.
Labour members of the CYPS committee asked that a very robust letter be sent to the DfE urging them to think again on this level of funding. We need to enable more people with young children to work and we also need to provide a solid foundation for all young people through early years nursery provision.
We will continue to take up the cause of those struggling with soaring childcare costs, and lobby for change.
Cllr Jackie O’Quinn