The Government’s Childcare Bill would make it even more difficult for single parents of young children to increase their working hours, a charity has warned.
The Gingerbread charity, who provide advice and practical support for single parents, has expresses concerns that plans set out in the new Childcare Bill would exclude around 20,000 single parents from extended hours childcare.
Eligibility criteria has been increasingly tightened over the past months, the charity says, despite a pledge in the Tory Party 2015 manifesto to offer 30 hours of free childcare to all working parents of three and four-year-olds.
Parents were first expected to work a minimum of eight hours, but new proposals would see this increased to 16 hours paid work at National Minimum Wage.
Director of Policy Dalia Ben-Galim said: “What seems like a small change by the government is likely to have a significant impact on single parent families.
“Gingerbread analysis shows that if the Childcare Bill was implemented today, around 20,000 working single parents of three and four-year-olds would miss out. This undermines the Government’s commitment to ‘make work pay’.”
Gingerbread also warns that a lack of available and affordable childcare means that parents are struggling to balance work and parenting responsibilities.
A study in February 2015 by the Family and Childcare Trust found that soaring childcare costs had left working parents more than £50 a week worse off. The national average stood at £115.45 a week, up 5% on 2010.
Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of Family and Childcare Trust, said at the time that Britain’s childcare system needs “radical reform”.
He added: “Britain needs a simple system that promotes quality, supports parents and delivers for children”.
Jessica, a self-employed single parent with three children, said: “I pay for babysitters left, right and centre…It is expensive. It’s a case of weighing up if it’s worth earning something rather than earning nothing.
“I had a situation recently where my little boy was very ill. I phoned up to say I couldn’t go to my class and the lady who runs the studio just said to me, “Well, you’ve got people booked in. You need to be here.”
“So I felt like…if I don’t go then I’m going to lose the work, so then I had to get my mum to come. Fortunately my mum’s local and she’s very understanding and very helpful.
“I’d like to be a successful business person, but at the moment my focus is my three children. I have to fit work around them rather than fitting them around my work.”
Dr Ben-Galim added: “Jessica’s case is far from unique. Time and again, single parents tell us about crippling childcare costs and a lack of availability.
“So it’s disappointing that, having initially committed to funding 30 hours of free childcare for all working parents, the government is increasingly putting barriers in place that will ultimately prevent more single parents from being able to increase their working hours.
“What we want to see is the government take into consideration the needs of Britain’s two million single parents, and show that it’s on the side of working people.
“There’s considerable support across parliament to make certain groups exempt in exceptional circumstances, such as the victims of domestic violence, and we’d like to see the same for those who are in training and attempting to upskill in order to move into employment.
“This means exempting single parents from the 16-hour commitment.”