I was pleased to hear the government commit to treat childcare as essential infrastructure for planning purposes, in response campaigning by Labour MPs and others. But it is not just childcare for new housing developments which needs attention. There is already a real shortage of childcare provision in Bristol. I’ve heard first-hand how nurseries are finding it extremely difficult to recruit and retain staff.
As a result, parents in Bristol tell me they cannot find a childcare place for their children or are being asked to reduce their child’s hours.
These issues will have a knock-on effect into the wider economy. I’ve heard from some parents (including much-needed NHS doctors) who are reluctantly considering working reduced hours or taking a career break.
In December I wrote to the Children’s Minister to ask what she will do to fix these problems which make life harder for working parents and entrench gender inequality. Too often, when childcare is absent or unaffordable, the pressure to give up a career falls on the woman, reinforcing lower wages and reduced prospects.