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She said: Congress, we very much welcome this motion on childcare. Unison is the UK’s largest public service union with 1.3 million members, one million of them women. Many of them are part-time and low paid, working in traditionally low-paid sectors like care, catering, security and cleaning. Around 70% of our members live in households with pre-school or school-age children. We are the leading union representing early years staff with over 50,000 early years members in nurseries, schools and Sure Start Centres. Childcare is an important issue for our members. We believe that the availability of quality, affordable childcare is paramount in improving both childcare outcomes and maternal employment and, of course, the two are linked. Enabling parents and particularly women to enter or re-enter employment is a key factor in lifting families out of poverty. Early access to quality childcare can be a key tool for enabling families to access the learning and social interactions that ensure that our children beginning school from all backgrounds will be starting on a more equal footing. 157
However, it has been mentioned already that the cost of places is going up well beyond inflation to a point where UK parents may pay out a higher proportion of theirnet income in childcare than any other European country except Switzerland. Affordability remains the biggest hurdle for childcare in the UK. Childcare costs are a key factor in parents’ decisions about work, particularly in the transition back to work.Many people are now paying more for childcare than for their mortgages or rent. In some areas, it is common for parents to earn much less than the childcare costs required to cover that work. Effectively, they then work at a loss just to keep their jobsopen and available to them. Of course, we all know that quality childcare provision must have at its core well-paid, well-qualified staff who are experts in their field, respected for the valuable contribution of their work and with sufficient training and regulation to enable them to provide first-class care.Sadly, as we know, early years’ wages are still poor. Retention and training remain huge issues that hinder securing the most skilled staff, particularly in the most disadvantaged areas. The many funding strands are complex and flexible childcare places are getting rarer at a time when flexible work patterns are increasing. Children with additional needs are often not being catered for as additional funding for support within school hours is not extended to after-school provision and providers are not sufficiently incentivised. Please support this motion. (Applause)Ruth Hayes(Unite)spoke in support of the motion.158
She said: I am a first-time delegate. We might finally be reaching a tipping point in the childcare debate. There is a growing recognition as the election approaches that childcare is a key issue for many voters and that market forces simply cannot provide our children with the best start in life.