Labour has warned that a “perfect storm” of rising childcare costs and thousands of providers being at risk of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic will prevent many parents from returning to work.
New analysis by the party suggests that childcare costs have risen between two and a half and three times as fast as wages since 2010, and that 19,000 childcare providers in England are at risk of closing in the next year.
Labour said that “childcare has repeatedly been neglected by the government” in its response to the pandemic, pointing out that neither the Chancellor nor the Prime Minister have mentioned the sector in speeches on the crisis.
Shadow Secretary of State for Education Kate Green said: “The Conservatives have created a perfect storm for working parents across the country, with a crisis in the childcare sector locking children out of early education and making it impossible for many parents to return to work.
“Ordering parents back to work without allowing them to access the childcare they need is a stark reminder that Boris Johnson is completely out of touch with the needs of working families.
“The government must urgently provide targeted support to the childcare sector, and ensure that parents can access the childcare that they need.”
The research – using data from the Coram Family and Childcare’s childcare survey 2010 and 2020 – suggests that childcare costs have risen by more than 50% in the last decade across many regions in the country.
At the same time, the party said that analysis of data from the Early Years Alliance found that 25% of childcare providers felt it was “somewhat” or “very unlikely” that they would be open in 12 months.
The party has warned that many families will struggle to access support over the summer, with its analysis showing that spending on children’s services has been cut by hundreds of millions of pounds in real terms since 2010.
Earlier this month, Labour called on the government to focus financial support on the struggling childcare sector to “prevent a wave of nursery closures” in the coronavirus pandemic.
Shadow early years minister Tulip Siddiq warned that if a large number of nurseries are closed, this could lead to many parents – particularly women – losing their jobs, which would have a knock-on effect on the economy.
Labour MPs slammed Chancellor Rishi Sunak for the absence of support for female workers in the economic coronavirus recovery plan at a Treasury committee meeting this month.
Siobhain McDonagh highlighted that women had been disproportionately affected by the health crisis, and told Sunak that “we are 51% of the population, we are more likely to lose our jobs, and to not do the hours we normally do”.
Angela Eagle raised the fact that the Chancellor had failed to mention childcare once in the ‘mini Budget’, despite the government acknowledging that women have been disproportionately impacted by Covid.