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The childcare system is costing mothers in England £3.4 million a day because it prevents them from working, according to new analysis from Save the Children.
The charity estimates there are around 89,000 mothers of children under the age of five who would like to get back into work but say that childcare is the main barrier to doing so.
Steven McIntosh, Director of UK Poverty Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, said: “Mothers describe a childcare system that feels stacked against them. They tell us it’s nightmare to navigate with barriers to work at every turn. The result is an astounding loss in earnings [Save the Children calculates an annual cost of £1.2 billion], hitting families already battling to make ends meet. The financial pressure and stress that creates at home is never good for parents or their children. It’s time to make childcare work for families.”
Save the Children says that parents are facing very high childcare bills and struggling with a complicated system – with almost half of parents saying they have no idea or are confused about what support they should get. The charity says that they are left unable to access the childcare they need to work, which can tip families into hardship.
It calculates that childcare bills for two young children can be more than £8,000 a year which is 39% of an average full-time working mum’s salary of £20,000 a year.
Its report, ‘Lost Opportunities, Lost Incomes’, show the system is failing to provide enough help for parents when their children are young, despite significant reforms. A mother in an average family with young children could be losing between £3,400 and £11,400 a year because they can’t get into work or aren’t able to increase working hours, it says.
The report also shows that families of pre-school children face the biggest financial crunch. The report says lost earnings can have a huge impact on children’s quality of life and also their ability to learn.
Save the Children is calling on government ministers responsible for childcare to urgently set out the next steps to delivering a childcare system in England that is high quality, affordable, easy to use and fits around families’ lives.
It is also asking parents to sign its petition to lobby the Government to do more.