Onward First Steps: Fixing childcare: the five years are where we should be investing in their futures.

Economic think tank Onward have published their new report on childcare, First Steps: Fixing our broken childcare system, alongside Siobhan Baillie, MP for Stroud.

The report highlights the expensive, inflexible and often complex nature of the current system, which is contributing towards parental economic inactivity.

The research was compiled from a poll of 1,037 parents which children under 5 and found that:

  • Half of parents say that childcare costs have risen in the last year, but just 9% have been able to cut back on childcare
  • Nearly a third of families cite childcare as one of their most expensive costs (32%), behind housing (74%), energy bills (75%) and food and drink (66%).
  • Fewer than half agreed that the “amount of support received makes childcare costs manageable”
  • 30% said that the costs of childcare have forced them or their partner to consider leaving work to care for their children
  • 65% of parents not in work agreed that the main reason they do not work is because the demands of childcare are too great,
  • 52% of parents opposed the idea of tinkering with adult:child ratios, compare with 27% supporting

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “Policy around early education and childcare is in desperate need of reform and investment. It is clear that Government underfunding of childcare places is the root cause of the current crisis in early years that impacts children, families and our economy.

“This report clearly sets out the impact on parents with a third of working mums considering leaving work due to childcare issues. It also shows that simply tinkering with ratios as a cost-cutting plan is the least popular option for parents.

Alongside these findings, the report also gave a five point plan for improving the current system within existing spending plans, including:

  • Introducing simplified childcare credits to replace the range of complicated and ineffective schemes, allowing parents to choose the right type of care for them
  • Front loading Child Benefit payments to allow parents to invest at the beginning of a child’s life in exchange for less support further down the line
  • Reforming parental leave to give parents a shared entitlement of 12 months, abolishing separate paternity and maternity leave
  • Expanding family hubs to give comprehensive community-based support
  • Introducing provider side reforms like boosting childminder numbers, by streamlining regulations and getting high-skilled graduates into the Early Years workforce

Purnima Tanuku continued, saying: “In the UK our Government invests less per child than Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia. We know how much the first five years count for our children so this is the stage where we should be investing in their futures.

“We have supported the idea of streamlining all forms of childcare support into one childcare account since 2017. As well as simplifying the system for parents and providers, it would remove the layer of administration which has resulted in millions of pounds in early years funding left unspent by local authorities.

“Exempting private nurseries from paying business rates, that add an average of £13,250 to their running costs, would mean childcare settings could invest  in staffing, training and limiting cost increases to parents.”

  • England
  • Onward
  • Siobhan Baillie

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