“Being the sole parent for a child hugely impacts my working life. The cost of childcare is crippling”

By Pippa • 7 September 2023

Pippa is a single mother and volunteers with Young Women’s Trust. Here, Pippa talks about the difficulties of finding affordable and accessible childcare, and how it has affected her work.

My experience of finding suitable childcare

For the last two years I’ve been juggling finishing my legal degrees alongside working full-time. I’ve been volunteering with the Young Women’s Trust for the last 6 years, and I’ve been involved in several campaigns relating to equal pay, single parenthood, and childcare. My daughter is 7-years old and has been cared for by childminders, school clubs, and holiday clubs, with varying costs whilst I was at university and work.

Being the sole parent for a child hugely impacts my working life. On the whole, I’m the only emergency contact. My parents live almost an hour away and both work. If there’s a school emergency, I’m the only person who can go and collect her.

The crippling cost of childcare

The main barrier to childcare for me is cost, particularly during the holiday periods. Six weeks of full-time childcare over summer starts in the region of £1,020. For parents with children who are not yet school age, that figure is a familiar one all year round. During term time, I pay around £60 a week for wrap around childcare. I have to get creative with my 20 days’ worth of annual leave to account for inset days whilst strategically taking time off during the longer holidays to lower the costs. For many families, the increased costs over the holiday periods are unmanageable, and saving up to cover them is difficult. This leaves parents trapped in a cycle of short-term low-paid employment.

The availability of holiday childcare is also severely lacking. The school-run holiday clubs local to us only run between 9am and 3pm. This isn’t helpful for people working full-time. Instead, I have to take my child to a setting that is a 15-minute drive away. Previously she attended a holiday club around the corner, but they dropped their hours to a 4.30pm finish, at a days’ notice last year. This left me scrambling to find a holiday club that stayed open until 6pm.

Why childcare matters?

Childcare is of great importance to the country. In today’s economy it’s becoming increasingly difficult for families to survive on a single income.  Taking prolonged career breaks can be particularly harmful to women, so there’s often added pressure to return to work after maternity leave. Childcare settings can also provide invaluable socialisation and early years education for children. As a country we should all want our children to be in the best possible settings whilst not in the care of their parents.

The government-provided free hours for early years education are insufficient and ineffective in practice. The hours are paid below cost, meaning childcare providers are becoming increasingly unable to afford to run their services. There needs to be a balance of affordability for parents and ensuring childcare providers are paid the wage they deserve. This will allow children to be cared for in the most enriching and safe settings, without parents and carers being priced out of going to work.

Want to read more about the cost of childcare for mums? Read our blog which calls on the Government to guarantee truly affordable childcare that enables young women to work the hours they need to.

Unsure what childcare you’re entitled to? Find organizations who can support you here.