Do We Need a Free Childcare Policy?

There’s no denying it. Having children can hamper a career. Whether you’re the mother or the father, your priorities are going to change to some degree and your focus on work will wane. There are only 24 hours in a day and with a young child needing round-the-clock supervision, there simply isn’t enough time.

Of course, there’s the option for childcare, allowing you to get back to the office and get your career back on track. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that for most families this is simply unaffordable.

In Britain, the average cost of sending a child under two to nursery full time is £222.36 per week. In London this amounts to £277.84 per week – £14,447 per year. The cost rising to £616 per week (£32,000 per year) for a daily nanny. To put this into context, the median disposable household income in 2016 was £26,300. So as you can see it’s no surprise that parents are choosing to stay at home to raise their children rather than going back to work.

But of course this isn’t a solution that will suit everyone. Reducing down from two incomes to one will mean a lot of compromises and can cause serious instability in a relationship. In the UK the government does offer help with childcare costs as long as the care is supplied by:

– A registered childminder, playscheme, nursery or club

– A childminder with an Ofsted-registered childminding agency 

– A registered school

– A home careworker working for a registered home care agency

Though Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) has stressed that this isn’t enough. As part of their manifesto published back in June, the WEP stated that comprehensive, free childcare would prioritise investment in “social infrastructure”, improving the economy for all – not just parents.

Transforming the lives of struggling parents, Sophie explains how getting more people with children into employment will increase the tax base and mean fewer people on unemployment benefits, “[having] a positive knock-on for everyone in a very, very positive way.”

Elaborating on her point, the leader of the WEP told Digital Mums:

“It’s a priority to create affordable childcare that’s available from nine months – the end of parental leave – so that families aren’t left struggling until their children are 3 or 4 years old; to make sure that breakfast clubs and after-school clubs are widely available; and that carers have the access to the wider services and support that they need.

“Childcare in London is a third more expensive than anywhere else in the UK. Just 21 percent of London’s local authorities say they have enough childcare for disabled children. Just 15 percent say they have enough for parents who work shifts and weekends. I want to change that.”

Politics that invests in affordable childcare and social care services that work will create more jobs for women, help our economy and society flourish, and lift the strain on the NHS. Importantly, this will help single parents to achieve autonomy in their own lives, creating a better future for their children.

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