Statement on the Spring Budget
Published: 15 Mar 2023
In response to the Chancellor’s budget, Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, said:
“We welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to increasing funding for childcare, and we are encouraged that the Government is finally treating affordable childcare as a vital component of economic growth. This funding has the potential to enable millions of parents and carers—who otherwise would have been pushed out of work due to prohibitive costs—to join and progress in the labour market.
“However, we are concerned that the budget as it stands does not offer enough funding to realise the promise of a fully supported system from 9 months to 4 years old. It is crucial that the Government funds these new childcare provisions at rates that are sustainable for the early years sector, allowing them to meet increased demand. We know that many parents and carers cannot access their funded hours as it is, and that the vast majority of parents are not supportive of changes to childcare ratios. Without adequate funding for growth, and without a workforce strategy to ensure that nursery staff are supported to deliver high-quality care, we fear that there will not be enough childcare places for the parents who need them, and that parents will lose confidence in the early years system.
“Any additional funding for childcare should give particular support to those who need it most—including single parents, families on a low income, and parents and carers in insecure work. We are pleased to see that parents and carers receiving Universal Credit will receive a much-needed increase to their childcare allowance, and that they will be able to access these funds up front. However, more work is needed to support lower income families to increase their working hours without financial penalties or unfair sanctions if suitable childcare is not available.
“It is also critical that this new early-years funding doesn’t infringe on existing rights to parental leave. Whilst the provision of free childcare hours from nine months of age could be helpful to many families, it is vital that parents are not discouraged from using their full maternity leave, Shared Parental Leave, or adoption leave entitlements if they wish to.
“We are pleased that the Government has also confirmed financial support for wraparound care, which we hope will provide local authorities and schools with crucial funds to offer greater flexibility to the families who need it. We know from the parents who call our helpline that accessing childcare during school holidays is a major challenge, and we urge the Government to take this into account when finalising the rollout of this funding package.
“Today’s budget announcement sends a strong message that parents and carers are key to our economic prosperity. Properly subsidised childcare—along with the measures of the Flexible Working Bill—will give millions of parents and carers the flexibility, security, and control they need to thrive at work. But there is still much to be done. Working Families will continue to work with our partners and the Government to increase the supply of high-quality part-time and flexible opportunities in the labour market. And we will continue to fight for more inclusive, better-paid parental leave for new mothers and fathers across the UK.”