Lack of childcare costs UK £27bn a year, report finds, as ex-children's commissioner urges government to invest

9 March 2023, 19:03 | Updated: 10 March 2023, 10:56

Chair of the Commmission on Young Lives and former Children's Commissioner for England 2015-21 Anne Elizabeth Longfield
Chair of the Commmission on Young Lives and former Children's Commissioner for England 2015-21 Anne Elizabeth Longfield. Picture: Getty/LBC
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The former children's commissioner for England has urged to invest in the UK's "broken" childcare system after a report found a lack of access to suitable childcare is costing the UK economy £27 billion year.

Anne Longfield, who is now chairwoman of the commmission on young lives, told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr that the UK's current childcare system is not "fit for purpose for the kind of demands that parents have".

It comes after a report by the Centre for Progressive Policy found that more than half of the mothers they surveyed said they had struggled to find suitable childcare.

A quarter, equivalent to one and a half million mothers in the real world, said if they had access to suitable childcare they would work more hours.

The research estimated that this would result in an increase in economic output of £27 billion per year, or 1% of GDP.

Chief Executive of CentreProPolicy says economic gain of state-funded childcare outweighs its cost.

Ms Longfield told LBC it is vital that the government get childcare costs "under control".

"In other countries, the state and even employers pay a much higher proportion of those childcare costs but in this country, apart from funding for 3 or 4-year-olds…the parents top that up.

"We know most of childcare in this country is provided by private and voluntary organisations. that means they need to find income largely from parents."

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It comes amid mounting pressure on the government to announce funding for the UK's childcare system on Budget Day, which is set to take place next Wednesday on March 15.

The Labour Party has said it would overhaul the system in England, citing "extortionate costs", that have been "pricing parents out of jobs they love".

Labour would "move away" from the current system, which is based on free hours, which is "broken", the Labour party's shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has said.

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Ms Longfield continued: "I think the (Conservative Party) gets the concept that this is an important issue and i certianly think can see now the link to economic growth of the country, which has taken some time to get there.

"Whether they can see the level of investment in the long term is something that well only see in time. Next week will be a bit of a hint, or even the answer to that question. At the mo, it is there to be had as a political priority."

She added that investing in childcare is central to "economic renewal" and that "any party who doesn’t see that" is missing a huge point.

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