Feature

Childcare Costs Impacting London’s Workforce

Parental Employment Experts (Photo: Katherine Iorio)

Parental Employment Experts (Photo: Katherine Iorio)

The high cost of childcare tops the list of most working parents’ concerns especially with nursery fees growing to stifling levels in London, it is often seen as the reason why many parents decide whether to return to work.

A full-time place in a London nursery is estimated to cost up to £22,100 a year in the most comfortable areas, which means that even middle-income parents can find childcare excessively steep.

London has the lowest rate of parental employment in the UK – in the capital less than half of lone parents have jobs and just 58 per cent of mothers in couples are working compared to 72 per cent nationally, according to the Child Poverty Action Group’s November 2012 report on parental employment in London.

Caroline Davey, Director of Policy, Advice and Communications at Gingerbread, said parents want to work, but aren’t finding work that fits into their children’s childcare services.

“Parents are evermore squeezed, wanting to work, but aren’t finding the correct work,” said Davey.

Of the London parents surveyed by the Heath and Public Services Committee, 63 per cent said the cost of childcare had affected their decision about whether or not to work, and 73 per cent stated it affected how many hours they work.

“Because my employer refused to cover the costs of childcare for my little boy, I was unable to work,” said Nancy Ellis, 40, from Camden. “I can’t afford to pay the amount nurseries are asking for.”

Childcare costs more in London than anywhere else in the UK, but Londoners lack the extra financial support needed to close the affordability gap. The high costs of living and working in London make childcare even less affordable.

Jill Rutter, Head of Policy and Research at the Family and Childcare Trust, says it costs on average in London £5.20 an hour for childcare.

“In a city where there are a lot of workers who are on quite low wages, the high costs of childcare and gaps in provisions, particularly the beginning and the end of the day, stops parents working once they’ve had children,” Rutter said.

London Assembly Economy Committee chair, Cllr Stephen Knight, thinks childcare is “a huge break on London’s economy.”

“We have a huge proportion of parents excluded from the workforce, often mother’s who want to work, who are qualified to work, and simply can’t get into the labor market because of the problem of finding suitable and affordable childcare.”

Experts within the field of parental employment and childcare cost believe it is up to the Mayor to take action on these two subjects.

“The Mayor could do a lot more to actually raise the issues, champion the issues, and bring employers and childcare providers together,” Rutter said. “But I think it is important to realize that the Mayor of London has quite limited powers in relation to childcare. The powers are with central government or more so with local authorities.”

While the Mayor can raise the issue and bring experts together, the only way to resolve parental employment and childcare costs is with local councils and authorities.

“There’s much more the London Borough councils can do because they have some responsibility for provision of childcare at a strategic citywide level, but the mayor needs to show leadership on this issue immediately,” Knight said.

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