Credit Donna Ford

A letter to Jeremy Hunt regarding the autumn statement

The Rt Hon. Jeremy Hunt
House of Commons

November 18th 2022

Dear Chancellor,

We are writing to you as a group of charities, organisations and campaigners to ask that you consider the additional challenges faced by parents and the early years sector due to fiscal plans set out in your Autumn Statement. 

We agree wholeheartedly with your statement that “to be pro-education is to be pro-growth” which is why we had hoped to see a commitment to children’s education before the age of 5 years old. 

Across the developed world, parents in the UK pay the highest proportion of income for early years childcare and education, while Government investment per child languishes behind Estonia, Slovenia and Latvia. Yet, there was no mention of this in the Autumn Statement. According to the Centre for Progressive Policy there are 1.7 million women who are prevented from taking on more hours of paid work due to childcare issues. Fixing this could boost the economy by £28 billion. 

We welcomed an increase to the living wage, this will make a significant difference to many. However, no additional investment to the early years childcare and education sector was announced. A recent warning from the IFS stated that the sector will see an 8% drop in real-terms funding over the next three years. An increase to wages, the largest expense for providers, will push fees up even further for parents and force more settings to close their doors. 

A raise in benefits by 10.1% is very welcome, but there was no clarity provided as to whether parental leave payments will also increase by 10.1%. This is especially concerning as statutory maternity pay in the UK represents just 47% of the current national minimum wage whilst our paternity leave offering is the least generous in Europe. Many parents already cannot afford to take this leave, so without an inflation uprate, this situation is likely to worsen – reducing parents’ ability to build strong bonds with their infants and condemning many children to start life in poverty. 

We also understand that the childcare element of working tax credits (which has been frozen since 2006) and universal credit are not due to rise in line with inflation, whilst early years childcare and education costs continue to increase. This further punishes working parents and means more families will be unable to access the provision that they need. This will have a damaging impact on the earning potential of mothers, in particular, and on our children. We know that 40% of educational inequality is baked in by the age of five.

Yesterday’s statement included many references to those who are economically inactive. The Government’s own data from 2018 found that there were 870,000 stay at home mums who wanted to work but couldn’t due to childcare costs and availability. Increasing the national living wage, but not increasing the funding to early years childcare and education providers, and failing to increase childcare tax credits, will only see more parents become economically inactive.  

We are calling on you to take urgent action to: 

  • Increase the funding to early years childcare and education providers to prevent the cost to parents from increasing further and to ensure we do not lose more childcare places.
  • Increase the childcare element of working tax credit and universal credit in line with inflation
  • Increase all statutory parental leave pay in line with inflation  

We look forward to hearing your response.

Yours Sincerely, 

Joeli Brearley, CEO, Pregnant Then Screwed

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, Women’s Budget Group

Jemima Olchawski, CEO, The Fawcett Society

Megan Jarvie, Head of Coram Family & Childcare 

Elliot Rae, Founder of Music Football Fatherhood 

Jane Van Zyl, CEO, Working Families

Dr Jeremy Davies, Head of Impact and Communications, The Fatherhood Institute 

Claire Reindorp, CEO, The Young Women’s Trust

Victoria Benson, CEO, Gingerbread

Purnima Tanuku, CEO, National Day Nurseries Association

Dr Kate Hardy, Associate Professor, Leeds University Business School

Olga Fitzroy, Founder of Parental Pay Equality

Josie Urwin, Senior National Officer, UNISON



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