‘Dear Liz Truss: Our Childcare Sector Is No Longer Fit For Purpose’

Grazia has written an open letter to the new Prime Minister Liz Truss calling on her to make the UK’s spiralling childcare costs a matter of priority for her new government

Childcare campaign

by Maria Lally |
Updated on

Today Grazia, our parenting platform The Juggle, and Pregnant Then Screwed sent an open letter to our new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, because we believe UK parents cannot take another summer like the one they’ve just had.

We believe the UK’s childcare sector is no longer fit for purpose and is on the brink of collapse, resulting in parents (overwhelmingly mothers) being priced out of the workforce.

According to a survey of 27,000 parents by charity Pregnant Then Screwed, a third of parents said the cost of summer childcare was either equal to or more than what they earn, half were unable to meet their summer childcare needs, and four in ten intended to take unpaid leave to cover the summer break. One mother of two recently told us: ‘I’m considering leaving my job next year when my eldest starts school because it just doesn’t feel financially worth it.’

Meanwhile, new figures from The Coram Family and Childcare annual Holiday Childcare found that the average cost of a place at a holiday club rose by 5% since 2021 and is now more than double what parents pay for after-school care in term time. The charity found families spent almost £900 for six weeks of holiday childcare per school-age child.

And that’s if they could even find childcare. Only 27% of English local authorities have enough holiday childcare available for parents who work full-time, which is down 6% since 2021, while nurseries are closing at an unprecedented rate due to underfunding, rising energy costs, and staff shortages. Pregnant Then Screwed was inundated with messages over the summer from frantic mothers who are being forced to leave their jobs, thrusting more families into poverty. And if local childcare providers do close, it is almost impossible to find childcare elsewhere, with data showing 41% of parents say there is at least a six-month waiting list at other providers. New Ofsted figures show the number of childcare providers in England dropped by 4,000 between March 2021 and March 2022.

On top of these closures, the UK’s childcare sector is currently in the midst of the worst cost, recruitment and retainment crisis in more than 20 years. According to new report, over 80% of nurseries find it hard to recruit staff, almost half have been forced to stop taking on new children due to lack of staff, with a third of nursery staff saying they’re considering leaving the sector altogether.

According to data from the OECD, the UK has the second most expensive childcare system in the world; a full-time place costs, on average, £12,376 annually. Yet the early years workforce in England is underpaid, overworked and undervalued, with one in ten workers living in poverty. Or as one mother recently told Grazia: ‘UK parents are expected to pay most of their earnings on expensive nursery fees run by tired, underpaid and underfunded nursery staff. The entire system needs an overhaul.’

As well as affecting childcare sector staff, nursery closures are leaving children without vital early years care and are keeping parents out of the workforce, which widens the gender pay gap and has a negative impact on the economy. Several other countries, including Canada, Switzerland, Australia and Japan, have already realised this and have recently committed additional funding to grow their childcare sector.

Last year we launched our Childcare Change Now campaign, and over 113,000 of you signed our affordable childcare petition, calling on the government to hold an independent review into the cost of childcare. But they said no, on International Women’s Day, no less.

We believe that properly funded year-round childcare, including summer holidays, should be recognised by the Government as a vital part of our economic and social infrastructure and invested in accordingly.

So, we’re asking the new Prime Minister to do something about it, because childcare needs change now.

Grazia, The Juggle, Pregnant Then Screwed

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