Childcare and parental employment: the pandemic and beyond



The Equality and Social Justice Committee undertook an inquiry into childcare and parental employment: the pandemic and beyond. The COVID-19 pandemic brought issues around gender equality, childcare and employment to the fore. This inquiry sought to address these issues by focussing on the barriers that childcare provision can present for parents, particularly women, entering and progressing in the labour market.


Terms of reference


The terms of reference for the inquiry were to examine:


  • The extent to which current childcare provision in Wales sufficiently supports parents, particularly mothers, to enter, remain and progress in employment, and what changes might be needed to improve the effectiveness of childcare provision in doing this.
  • What impact the Childcare Offer in particular has had in achieving the Welsh Government’s objective of “helping parents, particularly mothers, to return to work or increase the hours they work”.
  • The impact of limited childcare availability on Wales’ productivity levels.
  • How childcare arrangements have affected parental employment during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in relation to mothers.  What lessons might be applied to provide better support during any future lockdowns or increased restrictions.
  • Whether Welsh Government-funded childcare provision is flexible enough to support employment of parents, particularly mothers, in different demographic groups and experiencing different circumstances.
  • The impact of high-quality formal childcare provision on reducing the attainment gap, and the potential benefits of extending childcare provision to tackle inequalities.
  • What Wales can learn from other models of childcare provision operating in the rest of the UK and internationally and emerging practice in terms of supporting parental employment, and the extent to which these models might be transferrable to the Welsh context.
  • How financial and practical implications such as availability of childcare would need to be considered by the Welsh Government in any future policy developments to extend childcare provision.


The Committee laid its report entitled “Minding the future The childcare barrier facing working parents” on Tuesday 25 January 2022.


Following publication, Chair of the Committee, Jenny Rathbone MS, stated:


“We know that better childcare provision equals better opportunities for equality in the workplace.

“But the current system doesn’t make it easy; parents are having to navigate a complex system just so they can claim childcare support to be ready to go back to work. 


“It’s clear that – despite the Welsh Government’s best intentions – many parents who should be eligible for support are slipping through the cracks. The Government needs to urgently look at our recommendations and prioritise fixing the gaps in the system.”


The Committee received a response from Welsh Government on 23 March.


A debate will be held in Plenary on 30 March.



A person and a child using a computer

Description automatically generated with low confidence

Business type: Legislation

Reason considered: Senedd Business;

First published: 05/10/2021