Consensus of MPs at Parliamentary childcare debate
Another debate on the affordability and availability of childcare took place in Parliament this week, spearheaded by Ruth Cadbury, Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth.
MPs of all parties discussed the challenges facing families and providers.
Stella Creasy MP for Walthamstow gave a rousing speech at the Westminster Hall debate, saying: “Millions of mums are just fed up. For generations this debate has been in Parliament as though people talking about it are talking Klingon, as though it’s something beyond our reach.”
She added: “Tinkering around the edges will not do – it’s time for a fundamental rethink of how we do childcare in this country.
“We invest in children because they are our future and yet our system does not reflect that thinking. We cannot solve the cost of living crisis until we solve the cost of childcare. Multiple families now spending more on childcare than on their rent and mortgages.”
Ruth Cadbury quoted the Sutton Trust report, with too many children starting school who lacked basic skills and accused the Government of “levelling down”.
She said that the cost of living crisis had done more damage to childcare providers than the Covid pandemic. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with special educational needs are those who benefit the most.
Shadow education minister Helen Hayes MP, talked about the consensus across the room who agreed the challenges facing families and childcare providers.
She said: “The UK has the most expensive childcare in the OECD. The Government’s funded childcare model is undoubtedly part of the problem. Providers are facing rising energy costs, wage bills and food costs and many are finding it hard to recruit the staff they need which is leading to a tsunami of nursery closures.”
She quoted NDNA’s research that 65% more nurseries closed in summer months 2022 than the previous year.
Claire Coutinho, Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing responded to the debate thanking the early years workforce for their dedication.
“I do recognise it’s a challenging time. It’s been a privilege to spend so much time with them [providers], I am always impressed by the dedication of staff. They work absolutely tirelessly to give our children the best start in life.”
“It’s important we help early years providers to continue to educate and develop young children so we’re investing an additional £20 m to help with national living wage costs.”
Stella Creasy asked the Minister whether the unspent billions of pounds of Tax-Free Childcare money could be used to support providers and families with childcare costs. Ms Coutinho replied that this money had been used to increase the funding rate and was also absorbed into the education budget.
Watch the debate here
- Claire Coutinho
- Ruth Cadbury
- Stella Creasy
- Westminster Hall