Childcare measures welcome but will not enable parents to return to work this year and sanctions likely to backfire

Spring Budget 2023

Responding to the Chancellor's Spring Budget on 15 March 2023, Ben Harrison, Director of the Work Foundation at Lancaster University, said:

On childcare provision:

“The Chancellor’s plans to extend free childcare support to parents with children aged one and two by 2025 are welcome, as are changes to Universal Credit to fund access to childcare support upfront.

“However, working parents and the childcare sector are already under immense pressure. With inflation in 2023 still in double digits, the reality is these measures will do little in the short-term to enable parents to return to work this year.

“This is particularly crucial for women. Work Foundation research has found mothers of young children were nearly three times more likely than fathers to experience severely insecure work, in large part due to unaffordable and inaccessible childcare forcing working mothers to make trade-offs that impact their working lives.

“And it remains to be seen whether the additional funding and flexibility for the sector will be enough to spur sufficient supply by 2025. We need to see a comprehensive childcare workforce and investment strategy, if the Chancellor’s ambitions are to be met.”

On further Universal Credit sanctions:

“The Chancellor’s decision to introduce further punitive sanctions into the UK’s welfare system is highly likely to backfire, with some of the most vulnerable households in the country paying the price.

“The UK welfare system is already damagingly punitive – of the 1.4 million people in the ‘Searching for Work’ Group of Universal Credit, one in twelve are already living under sanction.

“Yet there is little to no evidence that tougher sanctions for those out of work or working part-time is effective. Indeed, the evidence which does exist suggests the new sanctions announced today are highly likely to be counter-productive and harmful to many already struggling with the cost of living crisis.

“Before introducing any further welfare sanctions the Government should follow the instruction of the Information Commissioner and publish its own long overdue review into whether such measures are effective in encouraging people back in to sustained employment.”

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