A Cry for Help: Three-Quarters of Mothers Who Pay for Childcare Say that it Does Not Make Sense to Work

A new national report into the childcare crisis from Pregnant Then Screwed has revealed that a staggering 3 in 4 mothers (76%) who pay for childcare, say it no longer makes financial sense for them to work. Whilst more than half of parents who use formal or informal childcare say they have had to reduce the number of hours they work due to childcare cost or availability. The impact this is having on the economy and on households is huge. 

The new report, which surveyed more than 24,000 parents, has revealed the knock-on effect of ever-increasing childcare costs; in fact, 1 in 10 parents now say that childcare costs are the same or more than their take-home pay per day.  For a staggering 1 in 5 parents, childcare costs are more than half of their household income. 

The UK’s childcare costs are now in the top three most expensive across the developed world (according to data from the OECD) and this is driving up debt for families, with 1 in 3 (32%) parents who use formal childcare admitting that they have had to rely on some form of debt to cover their childcare costs. Additionally, 4 in 10 parents (45%) who use childcare have shared that today they often find themselves choosing between paying for childcare and household essentials. 

To highlight the devastating findings of the report, Pregnant Then Screwed has partnered with Saatchi and Saatchi to launch a new campaign,‘A Cry For Help,’ which uses the piercing and unignorable sound of a baby’s cry to bring to life the sheer scale of the childcare crisis, and to symbolise the cry for help from parents across the UK. 

Born from the scientific insight that human brains are hardwired to respond to the sound of a baby crying, the campaign cry has been developed in partnership with Professor Lauren Stewart, Professor of Psychology and founder of the Music Mind and Brain MSc course at Goldsmiths, University of London.  To ensure it is impossible to ignore, the cry will play out from Ocean Outdoor streetside billboards and across Spotify and social media from Friday 3rd March across the UK, as part of an urgent demand for a clear investment plan for the childcare sector. 

Joeli Brearley, founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed, comments,

“This is our ultimate cry for help. Parents are at the end of their tether. Many have now left the labour market, or work fewer hours, because our childcare system has been abandoned by this Government. We don’t just have a cost of living crisis in the UK, we have a cost of working crisis with 1 in 10 mothers now paying to go to work; and that’s if they can even secure a childcare place – we’ve lost thousands of providers in the last year because they simply cannot afford to remain open.’’

She continues, “Rather than focussing on ‘getting people off the golf course’ why not invest in the vital infrastructure parents need to be able to work? It’s important to remember that this isn’t just a parenting issue, this is an issue for the whole of society – we are hemorrhaging talented, skilled women from our healthcare sector, from teaching and other vital public services because of our unaffordable, dysfunctional, inaccessible childcare system. The question isn’t whether we can afford to invest in childcare, it is whether we can afford not to. Unless we want to lock parents out of the labour market entirely then we need investment and we need it now.’’

Women with young children feel let down by the Government; 98% of women using childcare think that the Government is not doing enough to support them. The data shows that 88% of families with a child under 16 and 96% of families with a child under 3 are likely to vote for the political party with the best childcare pledge at the next election.

Franki Goodwin, Chief Creative Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi comments,“If you’ve ever tried to do anything whilst there’s the sound of a baby crying nearby… it’s impossible… even if it’s not your baby. Humans are hardwired to take notice of this sound and we’re proud to have partnered with Pregnant Then Screwed to create a campaign impossible to ignore and we hope that in these weeks before Mother’s Day, our message will be heard and listened to.” 

Professor Lauren Stewart, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London says, “Research has shown that a baby’s cry is impossible to ignore, whether we’re parents or not – the sound’s high pitch, long duration, and varied utterances are particularly associated with strong aversive and physical responses, including increased heart rate and sweating. I worked with Saatchi & Saatchi and synthesized the existing evidence to create a bespoke cry for this campaign, designed to be the most unignorable and aversive cry possible. Put simply, an infant’s cry is a natural example of a perfectly tuned mechanism for attention and action. The cry works like an alarm or siren that just can’t be silenced.”

Becca Lyon, Head of Child Poverty at Save the Children UK, said: “The evidence of our broken childcare system is there in plain sight – it is not working for parents, children, or providers. These statistics confirm what we are hearing from the parents we support – many of them would love to get back to work or increase their hours, but they simply can’t afford to.

“We need a childcare guarantee – universally accessible, affordable childcare from the end of parental leave to the end of primary school. This would allow all children to benefit from quality childcare and early education and help parents get into work.”

Anabel Cooper

Anabel is a graduate of King’s College London and upon graduating, she set out on a journey to inspire and empower women through her words. Besides working as a digital marketing expert, Anabel is a freelance copywriter.