Affordable and accessible childcare services - a pathway out of poverty for Caribbean single mothers


Speakers at the CWP
Day 2: CWP Caribbean Americas and the Atlantic Region (CAA) Regional Virtual Conference/ CWP Screenshot

Affordable and accessible childcare services are a pathway out of poverty for some single mothers in the Caribbean. Addressing the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Regional Conference, UN Women MCO Caribbean Programme Specialist Isiuwa Iyahen said a mixed intervention approach may be needed.

“Universal childcare access does not mean government has to do everything or that it has to be free of cost, it has to be affordable for parents and the most vulnerable of parents e.g., a single mother who is receiving public assistance.

Noting that such services are accessed on a first come first serve basis and most government childcare services are oversubscribed, she proposed that special provision should be made for priority access to childcare services for single mothers that allows them to return to work and earn a living wage. She noted subsidies could be included for single mothers who are already receiving public assistance programme benefits and are otherwise unable to afford childcare.

Speake of St. Lucia's Parliament 

The UN Women officer said support for childcare services can be in the form of a subsidy for working parents to help defray costs, whether in the form of a reverse claim via income tax or a partial subsidy to meet private sector childcare costs.

Ms. Iyahen recommended a lifecycle approach where social protection policies are harmonised with the labour policies and all the related policies. “It is important to have parental leave benefits, not to have them precede a child benefit for a single mother but that they can be introduced in tandem as there is urgent need so we can have parents - men and women share responsibility for childcare. We need paternity leave that is equitable to maternity leave, for example, the mother takes three months and then father can also take three months for childcare”.