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Results of 'Childcare's dirty secret' survey are "absolutely shocking"

Nursery World’s new survey, Working Poverty, Childcare Practitioners - Childcare’s dirty secret, reveals how low pay in the early years sector is affecting the quality of life of practitioners.  

This research into the financial situation of the childcare workforce shows the dire impact of underfunding on the personal lives of the professionals who educate and care for our youngest children.    

Practitioners driven to using food banks

Commenting on the survey, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance said: 

“The Nursery World survey highlights that working in the early years sector seems to be a luxury afforded to professionals who live with a partner or who live at home with parents, and even then, cohabiting does not necessarily eliminate financial stress.

"The findings match those in the Alliance’s Minds Matter research where 54% of respondents told us that poor pay had been a source of stress. 

“It is absolutely shocking to find that early years professionals who responded to the Nursery World survey have been driven to using foodbanks. Caring for our society’s youngest children at the most important time in their development requires focus, energy and dedication.

"It is an appalling state of affairs that childcare professionals are so undervalued by a lack of government funding that they are worried about putting food on the table when they get home. These professionals shape our children’s future and contribute to a child’s social mobility and they deserve better than this. 

“The findings also paint a bleak picture in terms of alleviating the recruitment crisis in the early years.

"In 2018, 77% of providers recruiting found vacancies hard to fill, according to CEEDA analysis. Getting a degree in this sector does not equate to higher pay so it is no wonder that Early Years Teacher enrolment plummeted from 2,327 in 2013 to 365 in 2018/19.

"The average age of a childcare worker is 39, so it is likely the recruitment crisis will only worsen unless there are incentives such as better pay and career progression to encourage younger people to join the sector.  

“When the Alliance was recently asked to give evidence to the Low Pay Commission, we were forceful in our argument that professionals in the sector desperately need to be better rewarded, but also warned that another increase in the minimum wage would inflict significant damage to a sector that is already on its knees.

"Pay differentials are so marginal that any shift upwards often means the whole workforce within a setting has to get a rise, and for some providers this can mean the difference between staying open or closing for good: in an Alliance survey this year, two in five providers told us they feared closure as a result of the increase in the national minimum wage. 

“We have said this before, but only with proper funding of the government’s flagship childcare schemes will we begin to tackle the dire problem of low pay in the sector.

"Childcare professionals are fundamental to improving the life chances of some of the most vulnerable children in our society, and these dedicated practitioners carry on doing this despite a significant number of them living in relative poverty themselves.

"Do we have to get to the point where working parents can no longer find a childcare provider, because so few people can afford to be in the profession? It is an unsustainable situation that government can no longer ignore.” 

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