Well, this is awkward.
At 03:36 today, yes International Women’s Day, tens of thousands of women who asked the government to look into cripplingly expensive childcare costs in the UK were told their demands had been rejected.
A petition calling for an independent review of childcare funding and affordability gathered 113,713 signatures, the majority of them women, and triggered a debate on childcare in parliament.
Those that had signed the petition were told the government had no plans to look into the cost and availability of childcare in an email from the Petitions Committee, which published the Government’s response to its report on the ongoing impact of covid-19 on new parents.
In September last year a survery shared with the Guardian revealed that 96% of more than 20,000 working parents said ministers were not doing enough to support parents with the cost and availability of childcare while 97% said childcare in the UK was too expensive.
The survey revealed that low-income parents and those on universal credit were resorting to using food banks as a result of the high costs of childcare.
The Petitions Committee stated that government response also “fails to commit” dedicated catch-up funding to deal with the backlog in parental mental health and health visiting services and “repeats the Government’s commitment, originally given in its response to the Committee’s first report on this issue, to strengthening redundancy protections for new and expectant mothers, but again fails to set a timetable for doing so.”
The Government said it had announced £500m in the 2021 Autumn Spending Review for early years services, including mental health services for new parents. It added that: “Tax-Free Childcare is a great offer for working parents”.
In its response to the committee the Department for Education said the need for a review had been debated twice and while the government “recognised the need for ongoing collaboration and discussion on the issue” it was “collectively concluded that a formal review is not needed”.
Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said:
It is quite astounding that the Government has chosen International Women’s Day to email 114,000 women who signed our petition demanding affordable childcare, to say they won’t be conducting an independent review of the childcare sector.
Affordable childcare is a critical component of gender equality. Without it hundreds of thousands of mothers are forced out of their jobs, whilst 84% say that the cost of childcare has had a negative impact on their ability to progress their career.
Women do the majority of the unpaid care work that keeps our society spinning and ensures men can progress their career. This work saves our economy billions of pounds.
It is a massive kick in the teeth to hear that the Government expects us to continue doing this work for free and that they will not invest further in the vital social infrastructure that is our childcare sector. We will never have gender equality whilst women cannot afford to go to work. Happy International Women’s Day to you too!
Kizzy Gardiner, who became the UK’s first Locum MP when she covered for Stella Creasy said she had got the news while doing a 3am feed with her baby. She said:
Waking up at 3am to feed a baby is exhausting. Waking up at 3am on IWD to an email from the government to say they’re not doing an independent review in to childcare is absolutely infuriating.
Childcare costs are crippling. To get this from the government speaks volumes about how little value they place on working families.
According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the UK has the third most expensive childcare system in the world, behind only Slovakia and Switzerland; a full-time place costs £12,376 a year on average.
Analysis released on Tuesday by Scottish Widows revealed that women retiring after 65 will save half as much money as men. Time out of the workplace and part-time work mean a woman will need to work an extra 37 years to give her the same pension pot as a man.