Problems with childcare don’t stop at the school gate


It’s often assumed that the acute problems for working parents associated with a lack of childcare largely evaporate when their youngsters reach school age – a myth that anyone who has lived the experience will quickly discredit.

A new survey by childcare firm Koru Kids found that nearly half of the 2,000 mothers questioned believe that a lack of before- and after-school care, known as “wraparound care”, is preventing them from being promoted. The same percentage also felt they were working in a role below their experience and pay grade to fit work around school hours, which are invariably shorter than what used to be described as the typical day at the office.

In stark contrast, 93 per cent of the mothers who had access to wraparound care said it had positively impacted their work prospects, with 91% saying it allowed them to focus on their job and future career.

Availability isn’t the only issue of course. There is also the matter of affordability, with childcare in the UK costing about 30% of the average wage. Add to this the recent findings by researchers at University College London, who determined that mothers in the UK earn 45% less than their childless counterparts, and the seeds of the so-called “motherhood penalty” are sown.

The problem has been intensified by the pandemic as many parents were forced to use up a huge chunk of their annual leave to look after children when schools were closed, leaving them struggling once the summer holidays rolled around. According to one poll, nearly two-thirds of working mothers did not have enough childcare during this year’s summer break.

It’s therefore no wonder that working mothers, to whom the vast majority of childcare still falls, are feeling the strain. In the Koru Kids poll, 56% of those questioned said a lack of childcare was affecting their mental health, with 25% reporting feelings of anxiety and 22% reporting fatigue.

Off the back of that research, Koru Kids has launched a petition calling on the UK Government to follow through on the Conservative’s election manifesto pledge to invest an extra £1 billion in childcare.

Such a move can’t come soon enough. In this crucial period of emerging from the pandemic, giving mothers access to appropriate childcare would go some way towards speeding up long-term economic recovery. In particular, enabling women to advance out of positions for which they are over-qualified could open up more vacancies for the younger generation.

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Posted on August 27, 2021