Author: Erika Yap
In the summer of 2021, the policy team at Nottingham Women’s Centre released its quarterly Campaigning Issues Paper which highlighted the impact of unaffordable childcare on women not just in Nottingham, but also across the whole of the UK.
The Paper, and the social media polling the Centre did to inform it, showed how unaffordable childcare was driving women out of the workplace. In fact, almost 75% of women surveyed said the cost of childcare affects the amount they can work.
England is one of the most expensive places in the world for childcare; the average cost of a full-time nursery place is £263 a week, which is over half the average wage.
Since the Paper’s publication, NWC’s policy team have pursued this campaign by running in-depth focus groups with local mothers and driving forward its policy recommendations in collaboration with Nottingham City Council Councillor, Rebecca Langton. In the long term, the team is also researching alternatives to the childcare system.
Policy change with Nottingham City Council
When Nottingham City Councillor, Rebecca Langton, heard and read about the findings of our research she endeavoured to support our call for policy change striving to make the situation better for parents at a local level. Using information from our research and focus groups, as well as data collected from social media polls, we developed a policy brief advocating for measures to improve the accessibility, affordability and flexibility of childcare.
On Monday 8th November, the following motion went to full council in Nottingham as a result of this policy brief. The motion went as follows:
Motion in the name of Councillor Rebecca Langton
Nottingham City Council recognises:
- Childcare is a critical social infrastructure that can both tackle childhood inequality and enable mothers to work but childcare in England is in crisis and this has been compounded by Covid-19.
- England is one of the most expensive places in the world for childcare; the average cost of a full-time nursery place is £263 a week, which is over half the average wage.
- Childcare costs increased 7 times faster than wages in the East Midlands, the highest level of inflation outside of London
- 75% of families use private nurseries and 56% of parents rely on grandparents for help.
- Although childcare affects all parents, this Council recognises that the impact of unaffordable childcare is disproportionately felt by women.
This Council notes a recent survey conducted by Nottingham Women’s Centre, which found that:
- 75% of Nottingham women surveyed said the cost of childcare affects the amount they can work
- 53% of women reported that the pandemic has increased the negative impacts of unaffordable childcare
- 25% of women said they have been affected by redundancy/furlough because of childcare issues
This Council resolves to:
- Deliver an awareness raising campaign to increase access to support amongst job seekers and practitioners
- Ensure easy access to information relating to childcare and support available to parents, addressing the specific needs of the family
- Work in partnership with the Nottingham Women’s Centre to run a joint campaign on child care and work, providing employers with a toolkit for best practice on issues relating to inclusive recruitment and childcare as a barrier to accessing work
- Review its own policies to ensure it is doing all it reasonably can to set a good example on supporting working parents
- Seek funding to develop and deliver a Women into Work initiative
- Reaffirm its commitment to Child Friendly status for Nottingham.
This Council calls on the Government to:
- Provide subsidised childcare from 6 months Introduce a cap on extra hours of childcare of £1/hour
- Introduce flexible furlough for all parents
- Increase child benefit and remove the two-child cap for Child Tax credits and Universal Credit
- Improve the Self Employment Income Support Scheme so that parents are supported when they are unable to work due to school and early years closures
- Encourage private companies to assess employee childcare needs and invest in solutions to meet those needs and those of the surrounding community
The motion in full along with the full agenda for Full Council can be found here.
What else can be done?
Alternative solutions: Co-produced childcare with Lucie Stephens
Beyond our work with Nottingham City Council, NWC has also been looking into alternative ways of organising and structuring childcare provision. This led us to getting in contact with Lucie Stephens – Founder of Friendly Families Nursery and former Head of Co-production & Core Economy at the New Economics Foundation – to discuss the alternative of parent-led childcare.
Co-produced (also known as ‘Parent-led’) childcare involves the collective ownership of childcare provision services by the childcare staff and/or parents. These organisations rely on parents’ contributions of time and skills to the nursery, reducing labour-costs and therefore childcare fees for parents.
We discussed this system with Lucie Stephens who shared expertise of the economics of co-production as well as her personal experiences as both a parent using co-produced childcare and a founder of a parent-led nursery in London.