Academics address five main barriers for working parents

Academics advising Working Families have made five recommendations to address the barriers facing working parents, from boosting Universal Credit to addressing the shortfall in childcare funding.

 

Child hold woman's hand at a table. She has her head in her hands and there is an open purse on the table with just a few pence spilling out of it.

 

The Government needs to tackle the five main barriers for working parents, from addressing the shortfall in childcare funding and bringing forward neonatal pay and leave to protecting those on Universal Credit and legacy benefits, according to the Academic Advisory Panel of the charity Working Families.

They have written to the Chancellor in the aftermath of the Budget calling for action on the five fronts. They say research shows over half (51%) of lower-income parents have had to reduce their working hours to manage childcare needs, and a fifth have had to quit their job altogether. They welcome the commitment that the Chancellor has made to guarantee the rates that will be paid to childcare providers to deliver the government’s childcare expansion package as well as the promised introduction of an indexing mechanism to ensure rates keep pace with the cost of living, but they would like to see further detail on how the index will be calculated and they remain concerned that current places for three- and four-year-olds are still insufficiently funded.

On Universal Credit, they welcome plans to uprate benefits in line with inflation, but point out that this is linked to September 2023 prices, rather than reflecting the full cost of living in April 2024 and is therefore unlikely, they say, to be sufficient to see households through the cost of living crisis. They highlight the decision announced in the Spring Budget not to introduce any additional support to those on Universal Credit or legacy benefits except to increase the time to pay back budgeting advance from 12 months to 24 months which they say is “not sufficient”.

They also call on the Government to review the way Maternity Allowance is treated differently to SMP, meaning UC is deducted from maternity pay in a way that it isn’t for SMP. A High Court judgment noted that the differences in how SMP and MA are treated [SMP as earnings and MA as unearned income] are justified, in part due to the way the benefits system is administered.

Other recommendations from the Academic Advisory Board relate to the passing of the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act which will not come into effect until April 2025. The academics would like this brought forward. And they call for a review of the rates of pay for Statutory Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Shared Parental Pay. They say the current statutory rate of pay for Statutory Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Shared Parental Pay is simply not enough to make leave affordable for new parents on the lowest incomes.



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