Politics

‘I pay £1,500 a month’: Parents struggling with childcare costs take to the streets in protest

Parents who say they have been forced out of work by extortionate childcare costs have taken to the streets calling for government reform.

Families including young children donned bandages, vampire costumes, and witches’ hats as they took part in the Halloween-themed March of the Mummies demonstrations around the UK.

They are demanding reform of the childcare sector and parental leave.

One protester, Sarah Chapman, a fashion buyer, fell pregnant with her first child while living in Berlin.

“Our local state nursery there would have cost us about €25 [£21.50] a month,” she told Sky News while protesting in London.

“The equivalent here is about £1,400 a month for the same hours and care.”

Recent statistics from the OECD found the UK has the second most expensive childcare system in the world, second only to New Zealand.

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Ms Chapman pays £1,500 for her two children for three days a week – including the free hours she gets for her eldest.

She has to work reduced hours four days a week.

“I can’t justify paying for an extra day of childcare, it doesn’t make financial sense,” she said.

Demonstrators take part in the March of the Mummies national protest in central London. The protest is organised by Pregnant Then Screwed to demand Government reform on childcare, parental leave and flexible working. Picture date: Saturday October 29, 2022

Katia told Sky News she spent the majority of her salary on nursery fees.

“It pushed me back and made me think to leave work because almost 100% of my salary was allocated to nursery fees and it got me thinking maybe I should not work and just raise my kid myself,” she told Sky News.

“And it shouldn’t be that way.

“I want to work; I like working and I want to contribute to the economy.

“By the time my daughter comes of age, I want her to have better childcare options than I do.”

Crowds gathered on Parliament Square sang pop hits including Roar by Katy Perry as they demanded reforms to the childcare sector and parental leave.

Demonstrators take part in the March of the Mummies national protest in central London. The protest is organised by Pregnant Then Screwed to demand Government reform on childcare, parental leave and flexible working. Picture date: Saturday October 29, 2022

Rishi Sunak ‘compared maternity leave to a holiday’

Protesters including Labour MP Stella Creasy joined singers from choir MumSing who performed on a float outside the Houses of Parliament adorned with pink banners reading “March of the Mummies”.

She said Rishi Sunak had made comments likening maternity leave to a holiday that reflected how he “(doesn’t) really know what he’s talking about”.

She said: “We’ve got a cost-of-living crisis and an economy that isn’t growing. You can’t solve either of those challenges without investing in childcare.

“For me, investing in childcare pays off because the more women – and it is mainly women being penalised by this – can work, the more families can make choices that work for them.”

Demonstrators take part in the March of the Mummies national protest in central London. The protest is organised by Pregnant Then Screwed to demand Government reform on childcare, parental leave and flexible working. Picture date: Saturday October 29, 2022

Speaking at the protest in central London, organiser Joeli Brearley encouraged the crowd to “force (government) to listen” to the voices of mothers.

“We need to force them to listen. Thank you for being here, thank you for being part of this moment,” Ms Brearley, founder of the Pregnant then Screwed charity, said.

“When the policymakers finally do something… they’ll pretend it was all their idea, but we will remember this moment.”

Demonstrators take part in the March of the Mummies national protest in central London. The protest is organised by Pregnant Then Screwed to demand Government reform on childcare, parental leave and flexible working. Picture date: Saturday October 29, 2022

Pressure on working mothers ‘insane’

TV presenter Katie Quilton branded the pressure put on working mothers as “insane”.

“I was always told ‘you can have it all’, but at this point in my life I’m realising I don’t really think I can have it all,” Ms Quilton said.

“I’ve been advised along the way that at work I almost shouldn’t talk about my kid and at home not to talk about work. We can’t exist like this, it’s insane.

Demonstrators take part in the March of the Mummies national protest in central London. The protest is organised by Pregnant Then Screwed to demand Government reform on childcare, parental leave and flexible working. Picture date: Saturday October 29, 2022

“I really hate to say I’m not sure we can have it all, but the way things are set up right now, I don’t think we can have it all.”

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