Childcare costs threaten recovery, says Maggie O’Carroll

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation in Liverpool, says the Government needs to urgently address the ‘unaffordable’ cost of childcare or the UK’s recovery is at risk. Tony McDonough reports

Woman, mum, mother, laptop, self-employed, entrepreneur, baby
Childcare is a significant barrier for working parents in the UK


Unaffordable childcare could put the brakes on the UK’s post-pandemic recovery, the head of Liverpool-based The Women’s Organisation claims.

Maggie O’Carroll, Women’s Organisation chief executive, was speaking following the publication of a survey of 20,000 working parents. It revealed that 97% of respondents found childcare costs to be unaffordable.

Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows the UK has the third most expensive childcare system in the world. It is behind only Slovakia and Switzerland. A full-time place costs, on average, £12,376 a year.

One of the issues faced by working parents in the UK is that subsidised childcare starts at the age of three but parental leave ends at one. These leaves a two-year gap where many parents are struggling and are often forced to rely on family or cut down on other essential costs such as food.

The Women’s Organisation is the principal delivery agency for the Enterprise Hub, Liverpool city region’s star-up and early stage business support scheme. Many of its clients are parents trying to juggle work or starting a business with childcare.

“If 97% of working parents are telling us that childcare is expensive, we need to recognise this as an issue that requires urgent action or we run the risk of stalling our post-covid economic recovery,” said Maggie.

“Childcare remains disproportionately a barrier for women when it comes to entering employment, seeking promotion or indeed establishing and growing their own enterprise.  By not addressing the unsustainable cost of such services we are actively promoting inequality in enterprise and employment.

“The Rose Review commissioned by the Government in 2019 showed that if we invest more in women’s enterprise we could add £250bn more to the economy through helping them to start, scale and grow businesses.

Maggie O'Carroll
Maggie O’Carroll, chief executive of The Women’s Organisation


“But we need to acknowledge that to make that economic impact a reality, a fully costed solution to the childcare crisis is required. When the cost of childcare is more than your rent or mortgage there is something severely off balance.

“We urge the government to intervene and let us know their plan for addressing the childcare crisis or risk seeing women ghosted out of the economy through no fault of their own.”

The survey was produced and distributed by Mumsnet, Pregnant Then Screwed, the TUC, the Fawcett Society, the Women’s Budget Group, Gingerbread, Working Families, the Fatherhood Institute, Maternity Action, Music Football Fatherhood, Mother Pukka, Tova Leigh, Black Mums Upfront, the Young Women’s Trust and Cathy Reay (That Single Mum).

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