Subsidise childcare from 6 months old
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When my first child was 8 months old I started my own children’s wear brand while simultaneously caring for my daughter. We waited until she was 2 years old before we explored childcare options. By this point, I needed more time to develop my business and we naively thought that childcare would be more affordable. We paid £320 a month for 2 mornings a week which we could just about scrape together. I felt like I needed to spend more time on my business but childcare costs were prohibitively expensive.
I started building my business, but the time was limited and restrictive. Just as I felt like I was getting somewhere I discovered I was pregnant with my second child. There was no way we could afford childcare for two, so with a heavy heart I abandoned my business dream.
My eldest is now in year 1 and I have spent 6 years out of work. I truly feel that not working for so long has affected my mental health. Society does not value the caring work I have been doing and I feel undervalued as a result. I have watched my friends who don't have children develop their career, whilst I now feel I am unemployable. If we could have afforded childcare I know I could have made my business work or developed my career in an industry I was passionate about. What makes things worse is that I am acutely aware of potential employers seeing my children as an issue. I have been extensively asked about childcare in interviews. I feel left behind.
Childcare in the UK is some of the most expensive in the world. This means that many parents can’t afford to work. Families may find themselves in a difficult predicament where they can’t afford not to work and they can’t afford to work. The TUC recently showed that the cost of childcare for young children in England has risen up to seven times faster than wages since 2008. For many families these costs are prohibitively expensive and mean that one parent is forced to give up work. The picture for single parents is even bleaker.
The high cost of childcare is also a key contributor to the gender pay gap. The mother is likely to earn less than the father, therefore when a family is making decisions about their finances, it makes the most sense for the mother to give up work. Many mothers leave the workforce during a child’s early years and when they return they are forced to the bottom of the career ladder.
This high cost of childcare causes challenges for everyone. Nurseries have very tight margins, childcare professionals are often paid badly (average salaries for a childcare professional fell by 9% this year), resulting in many children receiving substandard care while the parents scrimp and scrape to afford it. Both parents and childcare providers need good financial support.
That is why we are calling on the Government to offer heavily subsidised childcare from 6 months old, to ensure that families really do have a choice about whether they work.
Our children deserve high quality care, those who look after them deserve to be paid properly and mothers should be able to have both a family and a career.
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