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Early Years

Taking the headache out of childcare

We need a system that fits around struggling families' lives and gives parents the choice to return to work if they want. It's better for parents, and better for children.

Millions of us rely on childcare. It sets young children up for life - helping them to learn, express themselves and thrive once they get to school. It gives busy parents the choice to return to work and earn the money that will help to make a home fit for kids to learn and develop.

But there’s a problem - parents who are claiming Universal Credit are having to pay their monthly childcare bill upfront. That means that some families are spending a huge chunk of their monthly wage before their child has even stepped foot in a nursery.

This has a big impact on struggling families and their kids. It stops parents from using childcare that helps them juggle day to day life and it even pushes some families into debt. And the financial pressure and stress this creates at home hurts parents and their kids.

We don’t have to put up with this. Together, we’re calling on the government to make childcare in England work better for struggling families.

A baby girl plays with toy trains.

The current England childcare system is sending many parents off the rails.


Universal Credit is designed to help people to move into and stay in work. But right now, it’s making it harder because of issues with our childcare system.

The government need to help parents out with upfront costs and investigate whether fees could be paid directly to nurseries instead.

There is a huge opportunity for the government to act now and make childcare fit around families lives.

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Sarah's story

“I had to claim Universal Credit while job-seeking. After rent and bills I had nothing left. Not even to take my three-year-old daughter Katie on a day trip.

"I only got 15 hours free childcare, so when I had interviews I paid £24 each time for extra hours - that's my weekly food shop. Some months I had to borrow money from people. I was stressed out and trying my hardest to make sure that didn’t affect Katie.

"I was finally offered a job and I’m over the moon. Now I'm applying for 30 hours free childcare. But I'm so worried because I’ll have to pay upfront for extra hours to cover the whole time I'm at work - including school holidays. I simply don't have the money to do that.

"I’ll be worse off working. It’s degrading. I don't want to leave my job because of this.”