Labour warns UK has only half the childcare places it needs, as party demands urgent reform to support working parents
The UK has only half the childcare places it needs, Labour has warned, with one in five providers haveing closed in the last five years.
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson is set to lay out her party’s plans to reform the sector today and has vowed improvements will be her “first priority in government”.
“The childcare model the Conservatives have built fails everyone, denying parents the ability to work the jobs they’d like, to give their children the opportunities they’d like and is not of the quality staff want to provide,” Phillipson will say in a speech at the Onward think tank.
Labour says government figures show more than 15,000 providers – or 19 per cent of the sector – have shut their doors since the 30 free hours provision was launched in 2017.
The party announced plans to offer breakfast clubs to every child at its conference last year and says it will focus on supporting families from parental leave to the end of primary school.
There are also now more than two children for every existing childcare place in England, the party’s researchers say.
While the average cost of an hour of childcare for a two-year-old is now £800 or 14% higher than in 2018, according to opposition analysis of the Department for Education (DfE) figures.
An Onward report last year described the government’s “at least eight” schemes as “confusing for parents, complex and costly to administer”.
It comes amid a growing consensus of the need for reform in next week’s budget, with chancellor Jeremy Hunt facing calls to splash the cash to support parents back into work.
Pressure groups from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have weighed in, calling for a childcare “revolution”.
Pete Glancy from Scottish Widows today urged the government to support mothers looking to return to the workforce with more financial support and a better paternity leave system.
“Childcare costs are too high,” he said. “This disproportionately affects women [who are] unable to save as much into pension pots as men leaving them worse off now and in future.”
Phillipson added: “Labour’s missions must be central to breaking down the barriers to opportunity in this country… reforming the childcare system: that will be my first priority.”
A government spokesperson told City A.M. the government recognised families were facing “financial pressures”.
“That’s why we have spent more than £20 billion over the past five years to support families with the cost of childcare, and have provided additional funding for local authorities to increase the hourly rates paid to providers,” the spokesperson said.
“The number of available childcare places has remained broadly steady since 2015, while this government has doubled the free childcare entitlement for working parents of three- and four-year-olds to 30 hours, and introduced 15 free hours a week for disadvantaged two-year-olds. On top of this, working parents on Universal Credit can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs.”