The Mayor of London, central government, local authorities and employers all have a part to play in tackling the childcare crisis facing new parents in the capital, according to a report commissioned by two South London boroughs and chaired by Dame Tessa Jowell MP.
In a bid to give children the best start in life, Lambeth and Southwark councils set up a Childcare Commission with research support from the thinktank IPPR Trading Limited to look at the affordability, accessibility and quality of childcare on offer for new parents.
Maternal employment in London is 15 per cent lower than in the rest of the country, and the Lambeth and Southwark Childcare Commission report, launched on Wednesday [MARCH 4] produces a series of recommendations to make it easier for new parents to return to work.
The report recommends that both councils look into the idea of a childcare matchmaking service, which would pair qualified childminders with parents who are looking for childcare on a more flexible basis than that offered by nurseries.
The report also recommends that the councils consider incentivising local employers to set up workplace nurseries, possibly by discounting business rates or brokering deals with childcare providers.
One further suggestion is for Transport for London to consider offering new parents discounted transport fares to help make going back to work affordable, or for the Mayor of London to look into the feasibility of providing an interest-free loan scheme so that parents can pay any upfront childcare costs.
The report recommends that the Government change their funding of early years development, pooling the education, early years and childcare budgets to take a 0-18 approach recognising that early intervention can save money in the long-term.
Leader of Lambeth council, Cllr Lib Peck, said: “There is no shying away from the fact that there is a real crisis in the provision of childcare in London. It’s a headache for so many new parents; trying to find good quality childcare that is flexible enough for them to go back to work and doesn’t break the bank. The fact that for many new mothers, it is actually costing them to go to work, is frankly unacceptable. I call on the Mayor of London, central government and employers to join us in addressing the problems and do all we can to make having a family the enjoyable and fulfilling experience that it should be.”
Leader of Southwark council, Cllr Peter John, said: “There is no silver bullet, no one solution that can deal with the many, seemingly insurmountable problems new parents in London face trying to get back to work while managing the burdens and prohibitive costs of childcare. This report offers a series of ideas and exciting options that we must – and will – consider. Our pledge is to focus hard on finding innovative solutions to these problems while remaining mindful that money is tight. But we cannot do it alone. We will work with parents, businesses and the mayor in open partnership to create a city that embraces parenthood and creates a world of opportunity for all our children.”
Dame Tessa Jowell, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, said: “We all want to know that our children are well looked after when we can’t be there – and we don’t want it to cost the earth. It’s something that every parent worries about it; a seemingly simple need but with few simple solutions. Making sure that every child has a chance is how we as a society unleash the possibility of equality. Parents have to be free to work whilst raising their families; children have to be given the nurturing environment they need to grow. This report presents a serious set of recommendations to make childcare in Lambeth and Southwark better for families, better for children, better for our communities – and I am proud to support it.”