For too many parents, the cost of childcare is too high. TUC research shows that nursery costs have grown four times faster than average wages and for a lot of households paying for childcare can cost more than their rent or mortgage.
The childcare sector is broken – wages for those delivering childcare are often too low to live on, but the costs for parents are going up and up. Many public service workers are having to take on second or even third jobs just to afford the nursery bills, while others – especially women – are leaving their jobs altogether because they cannot afford their children’s care. There are 870,000 stay-at-home mothers who want to go back to work but cannot afford to.
Access to good quality, affordable childcare benefits the whole economy, not just the children and parents who rely on it. There has to be proper funding for the sector along with an expansion of free hours.
It is also a problem of ownership, transparency and profits. The sector is being distorted by big private companies, backed by private equity. This has to change because it is pushing up costs, eroding pay for staff in the sector, and damaging the sustainability of the sector. Childcare is an essential public service and must be seen as one – not as an investment opportunity.