This week, Lewisham Council will consider a motion highlighting the problems caused by the lack of sufficient childcare options in many parts of the country and calling on the government to take action to tackle this.
Childcare is an essential part of the modern state. High quality, affordable and sufficiently available childcare is beneficial both to parents and children. For parents like myself, appropriate childcare enables us to work, to build and maintain their skills and to contribute to family incomes. For our children, high quality childcare gives them a good start in life, improves their early education and helps narrow the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.
Ensuring the appropriate provision of childcare also benefits the economy as a whole by widening parents’ options for finding work. Studies show that a 1% increase in maternal employment would result in net gain to the exchequer of £200 million per year. Investing in childcare is good value for money.
However, many parts of the country do not have sufficient childcare options to meet the demands of their residents. This is particularly the case for children with additional needs and parents with “non-standard” working hours. Proposed changes to the welfare system are likely to exacerbate these issues.
Even where childcare options are available, affordability can be a major issue. As the cost of childcare continues to rise while wages remain static, for many families, it is just not financially viable, or even possible, for parents to return to work.
We are proud of Lewisham’s success in supporting children’s development – Lewisham has the highest proportion of 5 year olds achieving a “good level of development” on the Early Years assessment. However, more needs to be done to continue to support children’s development while also supporting working families.
Lewisham, like many other councils, is taking steps to improve the availability of local childcare options. However, national action is needed to support local efforts and to ensure that every family has access to effective, affordable and appropriate childcare.
Following our motion, Lewisham Council will call on the Education Secretary to make the implementation of a high-quality, flexible and affordable nationwide system of childcare a government priority. The government should take steps to study and expand all types of childcare so that every family, regardless of their income or location in the country, can access childcare that supports parents in their work choices and gives children the best start they can.
The full motion can be found on the Lewisham council website by clicking here. The Council meeting will take place from 7:30pm on Wednesday 20th January – all are welcome to attend.
Further information on childcare in the United Kingdom can be found on the Family and Childcare Trust website at www.familyandchildcaretrust.org.
Cllr Simon Hooks