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Charity says half of region’s mums want to work but can’t get right childcare

PUBLISHED: 00:01 16 March 2018

Save the Children is calling on the Government to make childcare more accessible. Picture: GETTYIMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Save the Children is calling on the Government to make childcare more accessible. Picture: GETTYIMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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Childcare issues are now the top barrier preventing mothers in the East of England from working, new research reveals.

Natalie Sadler with her daughter Violet. Picture: NATALIE SADLERNatalie Sadler with her daughter Violet. Picture: NATALIE SADLER

Save the Children estimates more than 84,000 stay-at-home mums in this region want to have a job but can’t get the right childcare.

This represents almost half (46%) of out of work mothers in the east.

The charity claims the options available to parents are too expensive and the system is difficult to navigate.

Steven McIntosh, Save the Children’s director of UK poverty policy, said: “The Government must urgently examine how to bring down childcare costs and ensure that families, particularly those on the lowest incomes, can get the support they need. It’s time to make childcare work for families.”

Mr McIntosh said families with pre-school age children were struggling the most.

The Government funds 15 hours for all children aged three and four, and two-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The allowance has recently increased to 30 hours for some three and four-year-olds with working parents.

New Department for Education statistics show 88% of eligible children in the East of England benefited from the extra hours in January to March 2018.

Nelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager of Ipswich Citizens Advice. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDNelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager of Ipswich Citizens Advice. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Minister for Children and Families, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “We are making excellent progress in our mission to help as many families as possible access high-quality and affordable early education and childcare.”

Natalie Sadler, 33, from Essex, is due to return to work this summer, and her now 10-month-old daughter Violet will go to nursery two days a week.

She said: “My husband and I are both taking advantage of the childcare voucher schemes run by our employers. We have already banked up a fair amount in vouchers as my husband is very astute and starting sacrificing the maximum amount from his salary as soon as Violet arrived.

“However, even with this bonus the cost is not insurmountable and with my travel costs on top there is no real financial incentive to return to work initially. I am only going back because I miss the mental challenge my job gives me and because I know we will be better off in a few years once Violet qualifies for the Government’s free childcare scheme.”

Nelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said the rising prevalence of zero-hour contracts could cause problems for working families.

She said: “This can lead to difficulty in setting up childcare as the parent cannot agree regular hours with the child care provider who might also be asking for payment upfront.”

Working families on benefits can claim back up to 85% of their childcare costs.

However, Ms van Helfteren said this was only on presentation of evidence of payment to a registered childcare provider so funding the fees in the interim could put some parents into debt.

Meanwhile, Ms van Helfteren said some of her clients were not aware that as parents of young children, they had the right to ask the Job Centre to cater their agreement around school hours.

Have you experienced problems around employment and childcare in Suffolk or north Essex? Tell us your story.

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