Rt Hon Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt MP
Dear Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer,
We are writing to you, as voters and as parents, to urge you to invest in our childcare and early years education system in the forthcoming Spring Budget.
As parents, we are at the end of our tether. Many of us have left the labour market, or work fewer hours than we want or need to, because we have been locked out of our unaffordable, inaccessible, dysfunctional childcare system. Many more parents are paying to go to work, or sacrificing household essentials due to childcare costs which will soon exceed £15,000 a year, on average, for a full time place. We pay this price so that we can contribute financially to our family and to the economy.
You want to reduce the number of people who are ‘economically inactive’ yet without an affordable, accessible, high quality childcare system, parents do not have the vital infrastructure they need to work. It is not simply down to individual choice when too many parents don’t have the choice at all.
It is important to us that you don’t offer a cheap fix. Childcare is not babysitting. It is early years education and every child deserves access to it. We care deeply about the quality of our childcare provision and we vehemently oppose plans to increase ratios, or to extend the 2 year old and 3 year old subsidies without first plugging the financial gaps. The current funding for childcare providers leaves thousands of small businesses struggling in the red each month, unable to provide the quality of education and care our children need and deserve. We want our early years educators to be valued for the really important work that they do, and that requires investment. We implore you to fix this issue as a matter of urgency.
After years of campaigning, we are dispirited that we still have the most expensive, or the third most expensive childcare in the OECD (depending on how you cut the data). The Government has abandoned the childcare sector, which is now in a state of crisis, impacting the lives and livelihoods of parents across the country, and affecting outcomes for our children. We want to work together to solve this enormous challenge, but we are not being heard and our solutions are being ignored.
We cannot go on like this. If you want us to financially contribute to the economy, if you want us to continue having children, if you want our children to succeed, then we need a good quality, affordable, accessible childcare system. That requires investing in our future and the businesses that sustain it. Please don’t allow childcare to slip down the priority list again. The number of childcare providers in England dropped by about 4,000 between March 2021 and March 2022, and we believe those numbers will be even worse this year as the cost of living crisis bites. Inevitably this leaves more parents without the infrastructure they need to work and more children who are unable to access early years education. We need investment before the situation deteriorates further. If you don’t act now, it could be too late.