What does the Spring Statement mean for working parents?
In his Spring Statement, delivered today (Wednesday 13 March), the Chancellor reported that the UK economy is continuing to grow, with wages increasing at a rate of 3.4%, while unemployment is falling. In particular, the female employment rate is at a record high, and a further 600,000 new jobs are set to be created by 2023. While we welcome this positive news, it is worth noting:
- without further investment in our childcare infrastructure, there are concerns that parents with dependent children will be frozen out of entering into, or remaining in, the workforce
- many working families are continuing to experience financial difficulties as a result of changes in the benefits system
- work is not a sure route out of poverty, with a majority of children who are experiencing poverty living in a household where at least one parent is in work.
It isn’t right that children in our society are living in poverty either where families are unable to access and afford quality childcare, or are struggling as a result of costs. Our most recent research tells us that over half of households have had to ‘cut back’ or ‘go without’ to meet the childcare bill.
Parents and carers who are locked out of access to affordable care face a barrier to getting into, and progressing in, work. Just as we expect our roads and our schools to work for us, we need to redesign our childcare support system to remove the barrier that affordability poses and ensure access to quality care is always an option for families. This will help to give our children and young people the best start in life and to realise their potential.
A three-year spending review will be undertaken, before the summer, if there is a Brexit deal. The Government needs to take this opportunity to prioritise measures to ease the impact of the benefit freeze and cuts to support for families, and to ensure that the childcare infrastructure is supporting parents to access work and / or training. Accessible and affordable, quality childcare is a key component of a successful economy.
If you are unsure what support your family is entitled to contact our Family Benefits Advice Service on Freephone 0800 028 3008 (lines open Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm).
 Northern Ireland Childcare Cost Survey 2018.