4th January 2023

The early years and childcare system in England is broken. In its current form, it does not work for parents, it does not work for children and it does not work for childcare providers. Consequently, it does not work for our economy or our society.

We welcome the realisation from Government that relaxing staff-children ratios is not the answer. Reducing ratios would only put additional strain on a workforce which is already stretched to the limit, often for less than the living wage. We do, however, need urgent and transformative reforms to the system accompanied by proper investmentas has been done in other comparable economies such as Canada and Australia.

The economic case for investment in the early years is strong – it will increase participation and productivity. Fawcett’s recent polling for Equal Pay Day found over a third of women would like to work more paid hours but the lack of affordable childcare is a major barrier. This is an even bigger issue in the context of the cost-of-living crisis with more than two thirds of women (68%) we polled having struggled to pay their household bills in the last 6 months, rising to 80% for Black and minoritised women.

Along with being good for the economy, investment in childcare is an election winning issue. Fawcett’s recent polling indicates that when deciding which party to vote for in a General Election, affordable childcare is important to 75% of women in marginal red wall constituencies. Given that women’s votes can win or lose elections, political parties should take notice– they must focus on women’s voices and experiences, and make sure they are reflected in manifestos.  

We call on Government and on all political parties to stop tinkering at the edges. We need wholesale reform to make our early years sector more affordable while also ensuring all children have the best start in life.