Cameron’s childcare crunch is hitting family finances and the economy

Parents are struggling to cope with a triple whammy of rising nursery costs, plummeting childcare places and cuts to support. Labour is offering an alternative.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg sit together as they visit the Wandsworth Day Nursery in London on March 19, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

As a working mum myself, I know the impact of the cost of childcare on family budgets. New figures by the Labour Party released today underline the childcare crunch facing families. Already hit by a cost of living crisis of David Cameron’s making, mums and dads are struggling to cope with a triple whammy of rising nursery costs, plummeting childcare places and cuts to support through tax credits.

Under this government, parents have been hit by a nursery price hike of 30% since 2010 – five times faster than pay. The average bill for a part-time nursery place has rocketed to £107 per week, with parents working part-time on average wages having to work from Monday until Thursday before they pay their weekly childcare costs.

A crisis in childcare places is fuelling this rise in prices under Cameron and Clegg. Figures from Ofsted show that there are 35,000 fewer places since 2009. Many childcare providers are small businesses buffeted by the poor economic situation. David Cameron’s broken promises to back Sure Start meant that in many areas this vital service for children and families is withering away. There are 578 fewer children’s centres since May 2010, the equivalent of the loss of three centres a week.

The government are not just failing families on the childcare crunch; they’re failing the economy too. Fewer women with children in the UK work than in many of our leading competitor countries and a recent survey by Asda Mumdex found that 70% of stay at home mums said they would be worse off in the current climate if they worked because of the cost of childcare. The childcare crunch is trapping women at home who want to work and stifling their economic potential.

Labour is on the side of working parents. Today, Ed Miliband has reiterated our pledge to introduce a legal guarantee of access to wraparound care from 8am to 6pm at primary schools. By 2010, 99% of schools were providing access to before and after school childcare but David Cameron abandoned Labour’s extended schools programme and many parents face a logistical nightmare.

We will also extend free childcare for three and four year olds from 15 to 25 hours per week for working parents. The value of this extra childcare support is over £1,500 per child per year. The next Labour government will increase the bank levy rate to raise an extra £800m in order to meet the cost of this extra support for families.

The government has done nothing in this Parliament to help families with childcare costs. Labour’s bold new measures are a sign of intent. They will tackle the childcare crunch and make a difference for mums and dads.