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NEWS: Businesses, parents and childcare sector call for investment to stem Covid childcare crisis

   

Today a broad group of organisations representing businesses, parents, children, childcare providers, and workers united to renew pressure on the Treasury to take action to prevent nurseries and childminders from closing up shop due to coronavirus.

The diverse coalition, led by the Fawcett Society, has come together to express their fear that a lack of action by the Chancellor in the autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review will decimate employment, if parents struggle to find the childcare they need to work. TUC research has found that one in four (41%) of working mothers with young children can’t get, or are unsure they will get, enough childcare to cover their working hours.

The organisations including PACEY and ranging from the TUC to the Federation of Small Businesses, and the Fatherhood Institute to Mumsnet, say that the childcare sector was already insecure before the coronavirus crisis hit. Now, though, the respected IFS believes up to a quarter of settings ran a significant deficit during lockdown. This is likely to result in closures, as 34% of settings in the most deprived parts of the country have said they are unlikely to survive for a year. This would impact the life chances of children and hold back the Government’s levelling up agenda.

The scale of agreement across such a range of interest groups reflects their view that affordable, high-quality early education is a key part of the nation’s infrastructure. As well as a bailout to stem the risk of a Covid childcare crisis, they are calling for long-term investment in childcare as the UK seeks to rebuild from the virus, in order to improve quality and strike a better deal for parents.

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said:

“Maternal employment in the UK is on a precipice. All the signals are clear that we risk rolling back a decade of growth, and it is unequal childcare responsibilities that are the cause.

“The Chancellor has rightly invested public funds at unprecedented levels to save jobs. For a comparatively affordable price, he has the opportunity to step in and save the childcare sector so that capacity is there when parents are able to get back to work.”

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Co-Executive Director Claire Walker said:

“Like many sectors, childcare has been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic. But its reduced availability and lack of support has meant working parents are now struggling to manage the competing demands of work and family life.

“With Coronavirus cases beginning to rise again, it is crucial that childcare is properly supported to enable parents to access the workforce and help our economic recovery.”

Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said:

“We are calling on the Chancellor to put children at the heart of this year’s Comprehensive Spending Review. As well as supporting parents to work, high-quality early education and childcare can have a transformative effect on children’s outcomes, particularly the most disadvantaged.

There is no smarter investment we can make than in children’s early years.”

The call for action comes as a new analysis by Frontier Economics for the Fawcett Society estimates that, over the course of the lockdown period, childcare providers who have faced a hit to their finances may have lost £228m. The figure reflects an assumption that parents paid no fees while settings were closed – if they paid 15% of fees, losses over the ten weeks of lockdown would have amounted to £185m.

The figures indicate the scale of the black hole in childcare providers’ budgets. They show that it is private and voluntary providers, and childminders, who are likely to have suffered most, meaning a real risk to some of the most flexible forms of paid childcare relied on by parents. The estimated losses are very similar to the £215m recently reported to have been returned by employers under the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, or furlough.

You can read our joint statement on childcare here.