London Assembly members consider how to get more parents back to work

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Government investment into the supply of childcare places rather than subsidising demand is one solution being considered by the London Assembly to enable parents to get back to work.

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At a meeting of the London Assembly’s Economy Committee last week (3 October), members discussed the barriers preventing London parents from working and how these could be overcome.

According to the Committee, London has the lowest rates of parental employment in the country, with less than half of the capital’s lone parents in employment.

The percentage of all mothers in London that are in work is also less than the national average.

The Committee, which heard from a number of family charities and childcare experts, including professor Helen Penn from the University of East London, discussed whether a lack of flexible or informal childcare is stopping parents from returning to work.

The London Assembly’s 2012 report, Tackling childcare affordability in London, revealed that Londoners work longer than other UK residents, typically more than 33 hours a week. More than half commute more than 30 minutes to get to work.

One recommendation to increase the number of childcare places available and help parents who work long or atypical hours, was that the Government fund supply of childcare, which would see the expansion of local authority nursery schools, and wrap-around care.

Currently the Government subsidises the demand of childcare through tax breaks and childcare vouchers, which members of the committee said are ineffective because of the high and rising costs of childcare in the Capital.

The move to fund supply would see the Government follow in the footsteps of other European countries.

The committee's chair Stephen Knight (right) told Nursery World,  ‘Currently money goes into funding large expansions of primary schools to meet additional need, but there is little expansion of local authority nursery schools.

‘There is also a need to fund the supply of wrap-around care provided by schools and holiday clubs. The previous Government developed a policy on extended schools, but no priority has been given to this.’

There was also a recommendation that employers in London should be more flexible to help working parents juggle their working hours around childcare.

The Committee will now write up its initial findings to give to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson to consider.

  • The Economy Committee is also keen for childcare providers, parents, employers and other organisations to share their views and experiences about what is the biggest obstacle to greater parental employment in London. Email economycommittee@london.gov.uk or tweet @londonassembly using #workingparents
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