We’re all parents here at royall, we’ve been through the very real struggle that is juggling childcare and work, and as recruiters, we’re professionally aware of what a challenge childcare is for our industry and how many talented people we lose from our ranks because of the cost of childcare. In some instances, up until now, it has been more profitable to work fewer hours for working parents, which has never made any sense.
However, in the recent spring budget, the Chancellor unveiled significant changes to childcare in the UK, which have been well-received. One of the key initiatives is the expansion of eligibility for up to 30 hours of free childcare to all children aged nine months to five years within the next two years. Additionally, the government now offers upfront childcare support for parents on Universal Credit, aiming to alleviate financial burdens.
These changes are a result of the government listening to the concerns and suggestions of various groups, including the REC, as we read last week, a prominent voice working on overcoming labor shortages. The REC had been advocating for childcare reform and submitted a budget proposal emphasising the need for long-term support for childcare costs. The request for increased funding for nurseries and childcare providers was particularly highlighted, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that no one in the UK is left without access to childcare. Although the government’s efforts to provide additional funding for childcare providers are commendable, there remains more to be done in helping parents access and afford childcare. While funding for two-year-old children will see a rise from £6 to £8 per hour next year, the increase for three and four-year-olds will only be from £5.29 to £5.50 per hour. This discrepancy may lead to uneven provision and potentially hinder overall support for childcare providers. Apart from addressing funding and access issues, the government should also focus on improving flexible working opportunities for parents, grandparents, and carers. This will enable them to effectively balance childcare responsibilities with their work commitments. Implementing measures such as introducing statutory leave periods for new grandparents and mandating businesses to conduct reviews with all staff over the age of 55 regarding flexible working arrangements are essential steps that can help retain these valuable individuals in the workforce.
So while the recent budget announcements have been a step in the right direction, there is still more work to be done in ensuring that parents have better access to affordable childcare and that the workforce is supported in balancing their family responsibilities with work commitments. By continuing to listen to feedback from various groups and implementing necessary reforms, the government can create a more inclusive and supportive childcare system in the UK.