Where did all the good childcare go?

PUBLISHED: 13:31 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:31 18 September 2018

Liz Nice's grandfather wanted her to have an education and career but childcare issues make it harder for women, she argues

Liz Nice's grandfather wanted her to have an education and career but childcare issues make it harder for women, she argues


Liz Nice was taught by her grandfather that a woman can do anything a man can, if not better. Hard to work though sometimes though, isn’t it?

I sit today as someone who wonders sometimes where all the good men went, but I was privileged to be loved and raised by one of them.

My grandfather – a man 
ahead of his time – pushed me 
to apply to Oxford because 
he said there was ‘nothing a woman can’t do better than 
a man and you, my girl, will be better than me’.

And so, following his faith and example, as a working class man who became the managing director of the company he worked for all his life, I fashioned myself in his image, got the education he had been denied as boy who’d had to leave school at 14 and drove myself to succeed career wise because all I ever wanted was to make him proud.

I could, I thought, be just 
like him.

And that’s all very well, until children came along.

It’s not so easy, as a mother, to pick up your career after giving birth to two babies and that certainly isn’t something my grandfather had to worry about – he had a wife at home to look after my mother and aunt so nothing could impede his path.

Over the years, keeping the show on the road has been a mixmash of me working part 
time for a while, nurseries, 
school, after-school clubs, help from the grannies and help from my then partner.

But even so, it took me 10 years after the birth of my first child to get back to the level and salary I had reached before my children were born.

That’s 10 years of lost income, 10 years of having to bite my lip while less qualified people told me what to do. (Not that I bit it much, of course, but I probably should have done.)

Reports yesterday that 
Norfolk now has 145 fewer childcare providers than three years ago since Government changes around free childcare caught my eye.

The council say this does 
not mean fewer childcare places – that other nurseries have expanded to cope – and that nurseries that have failed have done so because of governance issues rather than funding – but it does seem a bit of a coincidence that this has happened since changes to the way free childcare was provided.

Although since September 1, most working parents in England have been entitled to the free care for children aged three to four during term time, the Pre-School Learning Alliance (PSLA) says that some childcare providers are struggling to remain open because of increased running costs.

The PSLA charity surveyed 8,000 nurseries and childminder firms and found 46% of them felt the scheme “had a negative financial impact on their business”, while two-thirds said funding for child places did not “cover the full hourly cost of delivering the places”.

This is worrying as we all need help to get back into work.

Nurseries fees are prohibitive – there’s not much point working if every penny you earn goes on the care of your children – and meanwhile, we have created a generation of grandmothers who, rather than enjoying their retirements, are left to raise a family all over again if they want to see their daughters continue to thrive in the work place and provide for their children financially as they were never able to do themselves.

Throughout my career, I have seen myself and friends be penalised at work numerous times for being a mother.

‘You won’t want that job because you won’t want to travel away from your children’. (Oh really, find me a mother who doesn’t fancy a night in a hotel on her own for a bit of a break).

‘Why didn’t I get that promotion?’ asked my friend. ‘Oh, we thought you had other priorities now,’ came the reply from her (obviously male) unreconstructed boss.

Women who want to work, women who need to work (and let’s face it that’s most of us) need affordable nursery places to be there and by putting the onus on providing free places on the nurseries rather than the State, the Government has thought only of men because it’s almost always still, in 2018, the women who have to let their careers slide while their husbands can carry on rising up the ladder as though nothing has happened.

Don’t get me wrong, the time I spent not working and raising 
my sons was the happiest of my life, but needs must and without those free childcare hours I couldn’t have even kept my 
career ticking over, let alone 
got back to where I am now managing a large team and never having to pretend that I’m overwhelmed with admiration at the idea of a less qualified man which is actually the same 
idea I gave him yesterday but which he is now entirely convinced is his own.

I’ll never be a better person than my grandfather was but I promised him that I would never let being a woman hold me back and I never will.

It’s a promise I wish the Government would make over childcare. But, you know, Theresa May doesn’t have children and most of her Cabinet is male, so I don’t suppose any of them care about this too much.

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