Over recent weeks there has been mounting evidence of the impact that increasingly high childcare costs are having on family budgets and our economy. Yet the government seem to be in total denial.
First of all there's the growing pressure on prices as further demonstrated by the Family and Childcare Trust annual costs survey out today. This confirms that prices have risen by £1,214 since 2009 with part-time childcare costs now outstripping the average mortgage. Full-time childcare costs on average now account for between 20 and 30% of family incomes. Families facing a cost of living crisis are struggling with these soaring costs against a backdrop of wages down £1,600 a year. But when I raise the growing concern about this with ministers they simply dispute the figures. Yet any family with children in childcare will tell you of the impact on their family budget.
Then there's the crisis in places, which has compounded these issues for families unable to find suitable childcare and stopping them from working or working more. Early years places have fallen by 35,000 since 2009 and just half of local authorities report they have enough childcare for working parents. This is even worse for parents of school age children with just a third of councils having sufficient wrap-around childcare for this group. This has got worse in the last five years and parents are paying the price. Yet again the government is doing nothing to tackle these issues.
If the impact on individual families wasn't enough, there is growing evidence of the economic impact of prohibitively high childcare costs. Last month the IPPR highlighted that high childcare costs were stopping many mothers from working and that increasing maternal employment rates would benefit families and the economy to the tune of £1.5billion a year.
Yet the government is reducing work incentives for the lowest earners by cutting tax credit support and creating a two tier system in universal credit. The Resolution Foundation has reported this will see the poorest families lose out on £1,000 a year to help pay for childcare.
Unlike the current government, Labour gets how important it is that we address the issues with childcare and enable more parents, especially mums, to return to work or work more hours. That's why we have pledged to increase free childcare for three and four year olds with parents in work from 15 to 25 hours, benefitting both families and the economy. Our primary childcare guarantee would also help parents manage the logistical nightmare of before and after school care helping parents balance work and family life.
We recognise that in order to develop ambitious agendas you first need to understand the problem. Unfortunately, the Tories can't see the problem in the first place.
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