The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called on employers across the capital to help make childcare more accessible for working families, saying parents are being ‘locked out of the workplace’ by rising costs and expensive upfront deposits for nursery places.
Sadiq Khan made the call as he announced the introduction of a new interest-free childcare deposit loan across all organisations in the Greater London Authority (GLA), including Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police.
The Mayor’s Office says childcare in London currently costs costing 34 per cent more than the national average – around £2,200 a year more than families outside the capital in part due to needing longer hours as a result of commuting. The Mayor’s Office says 90 per cent of providers charging an upfront cost of up to £1,500. It adds that childcare costs are a major driver of London’s low maternal employment rates, which are 10 per cent lower in the capital than the national average.
The deposit loan scheme was put forward by single parent charity Gingerbread.
Dalia Ben-Galim, Policy Director at Gingerbread, said: “Helping parents with the upfront costs of childcare when they start work is a brilliant move and is what Gingerbread and London’s single parents were calling for during the Mayoral election last year. Thousands of London’s single parents are being locked out of work due to the prohibitive cost of childcare and this scheme offers genuine support to parents who want to work.
“We welcome that the Mayor of London has made this available to all GLA workers, and we are keen to work with him to persuade all employers to offer a similar scheme to help parents with the high cost of childcare in London.
“A childcare deposit scheme should be as commonplace and easy to access as cycle to work schemes or season ticket loans.”
It is not just the cost of childcare that is problematic for parents, though. Availability can be a major factor in stopping parents getting back to work, particularly for after-school hours.
One single parent told Workingmums.co.uk she had just graduated and had lots of experience in education institutions, but was finding it virtually impossible to find work within school hours or after school childcare. She said: “I’m stuck. I feel helpless like I have lost the will to live. I only have £40 to my name. I rang family children’s services and asked them to help me with this problem. They referred me to local childminders who supposedly do school pick-up. I rang them all and they told me they have stopped with school pick-ups. I have been unemployed for the last year and half. Every job I have applied to requires me to work till or after 4:00 or 3:30, which is impossible as I need to be at the school by 3:30 to get my daughter. I literally begged my daughter’s school to put her in after school club, but they said they can’t help me. I need help. I just want to earn money and work.”