'Disastrous for parents and damaging to the economy'
Tulip Siddiq MP, Hampstead and Kilburn
- Credit: PA
It’s never been a tougher time to be a parent. Too many families are unable to get the childcare and early years support they need.
For 10 years, the Conservative government has failed to fund the childcare sector properly and has instead driven up the cost to parents. The UK now has the third most expensive childcare system in the world. Many families in Hampstead and Kilburn are simply unable to afford childcare.
Government underfunding has pushed many nurseries and childminders to the brink of collapse. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, things have got even worse. There was very little support available for essential childcare services throughout the pandemic which, combined with a decade of chronic underfunding, has resulted in the closure of nearly 3,000 providers in the first half of this year alone.
This is a disaster for parents and detrimental to the economy, not least because affordable and accessible childcare allows parents, and particularly women, to enter the workforce.
If things weren’t difficult enough for families, we have also seen the closure of Sure Start children’s centres across the country.
The early years support that children’s centres provide is essential to give our children the best start in life. Despite this, the government has cut spending on Sure Start centres and under-fives by 40% since 2015.
Earlier this month, as shadow minister for Children and Early Years, I raised this issue in parliament in a question to the secretary of state for education, Nadhim Zahawi MP. I pointed out that the piecemeal funding his department has announced for Family Hubs – essentially Sure Start under a different name – will not make up for the 1,000 children’s centres that have been lost since 2010.
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I will continue to put pressure on the government to provide support to save children’s centres and nurseries from closure. For the sake of the parents who rely on childcare and the children whose life chances are shaped by high-quality early years support, I will keep pushing ministers to put families first and fund our vital early years infrastructure properly.
Tulip Siddiq (Lab) is MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.