In the first of a series of blogposts Gloria De Piero MP, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, reflects on listening events held with women across the country as part of her ‘What Women Want’ tour.
This week in every region of Britain Labour women have been hosting what women want listening events in celebration of International Women’s Day.
I’ve spent the last couple of months travelling the UK listening to hundreds of women of all ages, backgrounds and perspectives. From hair and beauty students, Woman’s Own readers, from city high fliers to expectant mums. I’ve spent hour after hour listening and learning. It’s been a fantastic experience confirming to me that if any politician wants to know what makes people angry, worried or excited they should get the next train out of Westminster.
Over the next few posts I’ll be presenting a series of snapshot of what women told me about their lives and the changes they want to see.
1. It’s all about childcare (most of the time)
At the start of each group I asked the women I met what are the everyday struggles that make life harder? Almost always, childcare came top of the list.
Caroline, mature student, Manchester –
If you work and you were for example on national minimum wage you’d get £50.48 for an 8 hour day and the nurseries all charge £55 a day more.”
Under David Cameron the cost of nursery places has risen by 30 percent – five times faster than pay. How long are we going to hear headlines that tell us the cost of childcare is crippling families before action is taken?
Faeeza, Muslim Women’s Network, 29, mum of twins –
I am right now working to have my children in childcare, you know there is very little that I actually take home after from my paypacket once childcare has been deducted.”
When the cost of childcare outstrips wages more often than not it is still mum who finds she is weighing up the benefits of a second income versus saving on nursery fees.
We need to support women to make the choices that are right for themselves and their families, but that choice is being removed by a cost of living crisis that means work no longer pays.
Catrina, 20, Rainworth, hair & beauty apprentice –
I want to go back to work after college and it is childcare cost. I think we need help with it. They want us to work but they keep putting the prices up, how can we afford that?”
Women want to get on, doing better at school than boys and going to university in greater numbers. But we cannot promise girls they have as much right to pursue their dreams if we don’t address the issue of affordable childcare.
That’s why we’ve promised to extend free childcare to 25 hours for three and four year olds of working parents. Enough to make going back to work pay.
And it’s not just about the cost of childcare either.
Keely, 29, Therapy Radiographer NHS, Cardiff –
I’m going back to work four days a week. But I can’t drop her off and pick her up. There is a fee of £10 if you’re 15 minutes late. My husband sometimes works away so the days he’s not around I’m going to have to use my annual leave.”
When school hours don’t fit with working hours, life becomes one big juggling act for parents.
Making sure parents have access to breakfast clubs and afterschool clubs, to manage the logistical nightmare of those hours would make a huge difference to mums and dads, which is why we’ll introduce a legal guarantee for parents of childcare from 8am-6pm in primary schools.