Labour Party Conference 2022: Single Parents & Childcare – Solving the Crisis

Posted 26 September 2022

Gingerbread are currently in Liverpool to attend the 2022 Labour Party Conference and encourage our political leaders to recognise the challenges that single parent families face and to prioritise the support they need.


We were thrilled to be invited to Mumsnet’s event ‘How can we solve the childcare crisis?’ 


The event was chaired by Mumsnet CEO & Founder Justine Roberts and speakers included Gingerbread CEO Victoria Benson, Executive Director at Save the Children Kirsty McNeill, Julia McColl from Chetwood Financial, and Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years Helen Hayes MP.




What do Gingerbread want to see happen to solve the childcare crisis for single parents?


This is a crisis that can – and should – be mitigated for the families that rely on childcare to get by. Single parents are particularly reliant on childcare to be able to work, study and undertake training.


Whilst single parents and coupled parents face some similar challenges in combining work and caring, these can be more acute for single parents as they juggle working and caring on their own and need to meet childcare costs from just one source of income.


They are unable to share the childcare responsibilities with their partner and are more likely to rely on formal childcare than couple parents.


We would like to see our political decision-makers commit to do more to support single parents and their children, namely:


  1. Reform the Childcare Element of Universal Credit (UC) so that single parents do not have to risk debt to pay for childcare upfront before they’ve even received any income. One option could be to introduce a national childcare non-repayable grant, similar to the scheme in Northern Ireland, to support low-income parents entering work, to meet the upfront costs and first months’ childcare fees.
  2. The DWP and DfE need to urgently review and update the calculation applied to the cap applied to the Childcare Element of UC so that it more accurately reflects the costs of childcare in 2022. Currently this is set at £175 per week, which is less than two thirds the average cost of a full time nursery place for a child aged under two.
  3. The Government should extend the eligibility for the free 30-hour childcare provision (children aged three and four) to single parents seeking work or undertaking training.
  4. Longer-term, Gingerbread would like to see more radical overhaul of childcare, which has become deeply unaffordable and complex to navigate for parents and providers alike. We support calls for a simplified progressive system where the government provides childcare places and parents pay according to their income.


The words of Sarah, a single parent we spoke to about their experiences with the childcare system, show why we think the childcare crisis must be solved for single parent families:


“Unless I pay, I have no one I can leave my son with. And even then, it’s not guaranteed. I find it all to be so restrictive because I don’t have family near me. It’s just me.”