Working mothers raise concern over lack of childcare

Catherine Gaunt
Thursday, September 3, 2020

Two in five working mothers are worried they won’t be able to find the childcare they need this September, according to a report from the TUC.

The TUC survey highlights how working mothers have had to take on more childcare responsibilities during the pandemic
The TUC survey highlights how working mothers have had to take on more childcare responsibilities during the pandemic

An ICM survey for the TUC has found that 41 per per cent of working mothers with children under 10 cannot find - or are unsure whether they will be able to find - enough childcare this month.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is calling for an urgent cash boost – similar to the financial help given to the industry in Germany – so that childcare providers can continue to offer the levels of care they were providing before the pandemic. 

Among mothers that said they would be unable to find enough childcare, nearly half (45 per cent) said they don’t have their usual help from friends and family providing informal childcare.

Many were also concerned about before- and after-school childcare availability: 35 per cent said they can't get places at after-school clubs and 28 per cent have lost childcare provided by school breakfast clubs. 

The same proportion (28 per cent) don’t have their usual nursery or childminder available. 

The poll findings also highlight the pressures mothers have faced during the pandemic in juggling childcare and work, with 90 per cent saying they have taken on more childcare responsibilities, and 43 per cent saying they have had to combine working at home with childcare. This compares to less than 29 per cent of their partners.

Around 1 in 6 (16 per cent) of women – mostly in low-paid jobs – said they have had to cut their hours.

Just under a third (30 per cent) of mothers also regularly worked early in the morning, before-8am, or late at night, after 8pm, to balance work and childcare.

The poll was carried out between 6-19 August with 2,001 working women in Great Britain aged 18 and over, with at least one child aged 10 and under, who used some form of informal or formal childcare prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ness, a midwife in the South East, has two young children at primary school. She said it was hard to plan  childcare for this term, as the school now requires breakfast and after-school club to be booked weeks in advance. But because she doesn’t get her shift pattern that far ahead, there is no guarantee there will be places for her children.  

'Working shifts and being on call means it is hard to plan ahead for my childcare,' she said. 'Although my husband has been able to work at home, he is under increasing pressure to be in the office more frequently. Our childcare plans aren’t confirmed for September and the coming months, and this is extremely stressful.' 

The TUC is calling on the Government to expand the furlough scheme beyond October to support parents who are unable to return to work because of childcare responsibilities, until schools and childcare settings are fully reopened.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said, ‘Women workers have borne the brunt of this crisis – both on the frontline and at home. 

‘Mums have picked up the majority of childcare while nurseries and schools have been closed. And many have sacrificed hours and pay to do so – especially those in low-paid jobs who can least afford the financial hit. 

‘But this can’t go on. If we don’t take this childcare crisis seriously women will be pushed out of the workforce, turning the clock back on decades of labour market progress. 

‘Childcare providers desperately need new government cash to stay open. And we need an extension to the job retention scheme for mums and dads who can’t return to work because of childcare responsibilities.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said, ‘Nurseries and childcare providers have worked hard throughout the pandemic, offering emergency childcare where possible and then implementing wide-ranging safety measures to be able to take more children back when lockdown ended. 

‘This survey of working parents shows how vital the sector is, not just for children’s early education and development, but as a core part of our national economic infrastructure. Our call for urgent funding to the sector now has the support of trade unions, local authorities and parents who recognise the urgency of the situation. 

‘Nurseries have rightly invested time, effort and resources into measures to make sure children and staff are safe in settings. Governments across Europe are recognising the importance of the childcare sector to any economic recovery and providing financial support, it’s time ministers did the same here.’

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