Being a lawyer is often a vocation. Lawyers – whether you work in-house, in private practice, or as a freelance legal consultant – are problem-solvers, analysts, innovative thinkers, exceptional writers. The law is a career choice which provides intellectual challenge and an opportunity to help others and make a difference for individuals, groups and organisations alike.

Being a parent, some would argue, is equally a vocation. Between dealing with cleaning up after a messy meal, dealing with a tantrum or running ragged between clubs, playdates, and school commitments – parenting is equally rewarding, as you shape, invest in and share in watching your children grow.

Here at Obelisk Support, we believe nobody should have to choose between life and work. We’re passionate about making legal work more inclusive and we’re on a mission to spread the word about the benefits of flexible work to support working parents.

As we approach Mothering Sunday this weekend, a day for honouring mothers (although in a little history note, the day was originally about honouring mother churches, that is, where one was baptised), we want to shine a light on all childcare stars – the childminders, teachers, grandparents and other carers who help us make sure our children thrive without whom no parent would be able to work.

A collective effort of childcare stars

Our recent survey of our Obelisk Support team and community of legal consultants, found that more than half indicated that their main childcare star was not paid childcare at all, with most of the respondents suggesting that they rely on more than one childcare star as their childcare is a combination of partners, school clubs and extended family.

This is reflective of 2021 Mumsnet survey where grandparents, school wrap-around clubs, extended family and childcare swaps with other parents formed around three quarters of the options used by those with primary school aged children (in comparison to the 80% of 1 year olds that were able to attend a private nursery).

“My partner works part-time to cover childcare some afternoons, and my children attend after-school club on a couple of days. This, alongside leaning on other mums for playdates after school means that I can pursue my career aspirations working full time knowing my children are well taken care of, are socialising and learning through lots of play”.

Survey Respondent

Celebrating partners, grandparents and extended family

The Coram Family and Childcare’s 21st annual childcare survey, released this month found that “childcare use has changed dramatically over the last year and the use of formal childcare has reduced significantly”.

In fact, around 5 million grandparents provide unpaid child care across the UK.

Encouraging was the high proportion of respondents to our survey that sang the praises of their partners as their childcare stars. This was a marked shift from a broader survey of 350 respondents in data we collected in May 2020, albeit related to the first lockdown, where almost half said they were taking on more childcare responsibilities than their partner. By October 2020, 55% said that their caring responsibilities had increased since the pandemic had begun.

Highlighting the important role of partners, grandparents and extended family as childcare stars, our Obelisk support community of legal consultants shared:

“We share the responsibilities throughout the day, depending on our workload. This includes picking up tasks that they may not have done before and often getting more involved.”

“Knowing my children are spending quality time with my partner means I can focus on work with no guilt for being the absent parent and give them 100% when we spend time together”.

“I could not have continued working as a single parent without this [extended family] support”.

“Although I work part-time, we are equally committed to our jobs and juggling the priorities at home, whether it be helping with revision or taxiing them around”.

Celebrating nurseries, childminders, school and holiday clubs

Over 328,000 people across the UK were employed to look after our collective under 5s (which includes all group-based or school-based settings or those who work as childminders) at the end of 2021.

There was plenty of love for formal childcare across our Obelisk Support community too when nominating their childminders and nurseries:

“Knowing that our daughter has a happy environment where she can relax after school means I can relax at work, without feeling that she’s missing out.”

“Knowing that our daughter is well-cared for and enjoying herself when she’s at her childminder means that I can focus 100% on my work and have been able to keep making steps in my career”.

The importance of childcare in building an inclusive legal profession

Finding appropriate and cost-effective childcare is tricky across all sectors, not just law. It can be particularly difficult where hours are not routine or in traditional working hours, or when children are at school, so a private nursery is no longer available.

Yet, reliable childcare – whether formal or informal – is vital to support parents in work.

In a survey of more than 20,000 people carried out by Mumsnet in 2021, in which 97% of respondents indicated that they were women, 82% suggested that they believed they would have attained more seniority at work or earned more, if they had not had childcare considerations, and 73% suggested that being unable to find childcare that met their needs was a factor in reducing or changing their working hours.

Asked how childcare stars support our Obelisk Community, the positive impact on mental health and career aspirations was clear:

“With the help and support of the daily needs and routine, I am able to continue with my vocation”

“[Childcare allows me to] Put my mental health first, lightening the load of parenting and other responsibilities besides childcare such as chores and cooking”

“[Childcare] Allows me to continue achieve my career aspirations and be able to support my family financially”.

The key barrier? Affordability

From the Mumsnet survey, childcare not meeting parent’s needs first and foremost focused primarily on the fact that childcare is too expensive, with 92% observing an impact on living from paying childcare expenses.

97% of those surveyed by Mumsnet suggested that childcare in the UK is too expensive, with 82% indicating that childcare costs and availability in the UK affect mothers more.

Whether that burden is borne by the mother or not, 99% of the respondents to the Mumsnet survey thought that “childcare should be recognised by government as a vital part of our economic and social infrastructure and invested in accordingly”

Yet, costs are set to rise even more according to the Coram Family and Childcare’s 21st annual childcare survey recently released. The UK’s most comprehensive annual survey of childcare costs, it reveals that the cost of childcare for children under 2 has risen by 2.5% in a year.

A part time nursery place (25 hours) for a child under two costs 4% more than it did a year ago. For a child aged two, it costs 5% more.

Coram Family and Childcare: Championing Change

Coram Family and Childcare – a leading national charity in the field of policy, research and advocacy on childcare recently described the rising costs as a “childcare crisis”. In their latest report they outline “Costs are too high and there is not enough of it [childcare support]. It remains a deeply flawed patchwork system that makes it hard for families to get the support they need and forces some parents — particularly mothers — out of the workforce entirely.”

“We are disappointed that amid an ongoing cost of living crisis, and off the back of a pandemic which has severely impacted children’s life chances, the Government has again refused to review childcare funding and availability. Many parents, up and down the country, will be locked out of work or struggle to make ends meet as childcare prices continue to go up and the availability of places goes down.” Ellen Broomé, managing director of Coram Family and Childcare

The charity is calling for the maximum amount of childcare costs paid under Universal Credit to be increased, more people to be eligible for the 30 free childcare hours, and for the early years’ premium, paid to childcare providers who take disadvantaged children, to be doubled.

 

 

 

 

 

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