Childcare issues don’t stop when kids go to school – in many ways it gets harder

Rachel Carrell argues the wraparound care crisis in the UK is as bad for equality as the lack of affordable pre-school childcare

After school childcare

by Rachel Carrell |
Updated on

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This week, over a hundred thousand people stood up to fight for affordable childcare. The petition, launched by Pregnant then Screwed, Grazia and The Juggle, sparked the most passionate childcare debate Westminster heard in recent years. And I think it’s about time.

Our broken childcare system is a massive driver of gender inequality, disproportionately affecting women. Here’s how it goes: the government severely underfunds childcare, women pick up the slack, and this then hurts their careers, their mental health and their relationships.

Quite rightly, there has been much discussion about affordable childcare for younger kids. But one of the greatest myths in the childcare debate is that it gets easier when they go to school. In many ways it gets harder. My kids finish at 3:30pm, I finish at 6pm. They get 13 weeks holiday a year. I get 5 weeks, my husband gets 5 weeks. It’s even harder for single parents. The maths simply doesn’t add up.

Good quality, affordable before-and-after-school care is hard to come by. After-school clubs are on the brink: another casualty of the pandemic. Our own Koru Kids research tells us that 1 in 10 don’t have access to an after-school club, and 12% can’t afford to use them. There is no direct government funding for wrap-around childcare. I find it astonishing that 23% of parents are forced to rely on grandparents to plug their childcare gaps once their kids are at school, an impossible feat for those of us who are expats, or live hundreds of miles from our families.

In my job as CEO of childcare company Koru Kids, I talk to hundreds of parents every month. While no childcare challenge is the same, what I consistently hear again and again from working parents all over the country, is that our childcare system is broken. To make things harder, despite strides forward made by the brilliant Mother Pukka’s Flex Appeal campaign, our workplaces, as a rule, simply don’t accommodate working parents. As businesses are recalling their workforce back to the office this month, it’s been reported that only 15% of jobs are flexible as standard. Many parents find their lives being upturned once again, as more flexible working from home patterns are disrupted, reversing the small ray of hope to come from this global pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, all of these things disproportionately impact women’s careers, their mental health and their relationships. Nearly half of women we spoke to feel trapped in their jobs due to a lack of wrap-around childcare, 30% are stressed because they don’t have it, and 10% find it causes arguments with their partners about finances.

But here’s the truly amazing thing. When childcare does work, it is transformational. Over 9 out of 10 mothers say having the right childcare positively impacts their future career progressions, and nearly 80% of women that do have it feel they are working to the pay grade they deserve.

The only answer to solving our broken system is to fund childcare properly.

Rachel Carrell
Rachel Carrell ©Koru Kids

In 2019, the government's election manifesto promised voters they'd invest a billion pounds in childcare, specifically before-and-after-school clubs and holiday care. But investment in wrap-around care has never materialised.

We are calling on the Secretary of State for Education to follow through on the government’s 2019 election promise, so that women can work to their full potential, no matter how old their child is.

Please help us by adding your name to the campaign here.

READ MORE: 'Parents Shouldn't Have To Choose Between Their Child And Their Career'

READ MORE: There Is A Solution To The Childcare Crisis In This Country

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