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The one word Jeremy Hunt didn't mention that affects millions of parents

Jeremy Hunt gives hus autumn statement on Thursday. (UK Parliament/PA)
Jeremy Hunt gives his autumn statement on Thursday. (UK Parliament/PA)

Jeremy Hunt warned the public he would be playing Scrooge ahead of his budget on Thursday.

The chancellor kept to his promise - with a majority of households set to be worse off as a result of the decisions he made in an effort to get a grip on public finances.

The energy cap will be increased from April, meaning a family’s average annual gas and electricity bill will rise to £3,000. Meanwhile, the tax burden will rise to its highest sustained level since the Second World War.

In one 53-minute statement, there was a lot of difficult news for a lot of people. But for many, a key issue was what Hunt didn’t say.

Any parents hoping for help on childcare will have been left disappointed after the chancellor didn’t mention the issue once.

Childcare in the UK is hugely expensive – parents are burdened with the third highest costs in the developed world, according to data from the OECD.

This can be a major barrier to parents wanting to work, as they find their wage isn't enough to cover the costs.

Meanwhile, providers themselves are struggling, with 4,000 closing in the 12 months up to March. Childcare interest groups have said the sector is in “crisis”.

Watch: Key points from chancellor's statement

In a cost-saving measure, ministers have been considering changing the early years staff-per-child ratio from 1:4 to 1:5 for two-year-olds. However, this has been met with huge opposition amid safety concerns.

Groups such as Coram, the Early Years Alliance, Save the Children and the National Education Union recently wrote an open letter to the government stating: “The need for reform is urgent, and the government must provide a long-term vision focused on improving the quality and affordability of childcare and early education, rather than papering over the cracks and deepening the current crisis.”

Against this backdrop, there has been huge criticism of Hunt for failing to mention childcare once in his statement.

Helen Hayes, the Labour shadow minister for children and early years, said the omission was “astonishing”.

Read more: ‘Simply staggering’ hit to living standards coming next year, top economist warns

“The current costs of childcare are holding back women and stifling economic growth,” she added.

Labour MP Stella Creasy, a childcare campaigner, said not addressing childcare was “totally missing the point that it’s a critical part of our infrastructure and economic growth”.

High childcare costs have been linked to the massive gender pay gap among over-40s, and another Labour MP, Catherine McKinnell, tweeted an image of Hunt making his statement surrounded by fellow male ministers with the caption: “What could there be about this image to explain why there wasn’t a single mention of childcare?”

Jeremy Hunt sat with male ministers including Rishi Sunak after delivering his autumn statement. (PA)
Jeremy Hunt sat with male ministers including Rishi Sunak after delivering his autumn statement. (PA)

Childcare organisations also weighed in, with Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, saying the omission “demonstrates a lack of respect for the amazing work that early years educators do day in, day out to support children and families”.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 29: Hundreds of women, parents and young children, many dressed in Halloween attire take part in a âMarch of the Mummiesâ protest in Whitehall, London, Britain, on October 29, 2022, demanding rights for working mothers, reforms on childcare, parental leave and flexible working. The March for Mummies demonstration is taking place in 11 locations across the country, including the capital, organised by Pregnant Then Screwed, a charity that tackles discrimination against pregnant women in employment. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
One of the March of the Mummies protests in London on 29 October. (Getty Images)

Thousands of protesters took part in marches around the UK last month calling for reform. One protester was pictured with a placard saying she spent 120% of her salary on childcare.

In September last year, meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies found an "eye-popping" 96% of working parents it surveyed felt the government, then led by Boris Johnson, was not doing enough to support families with the cost of childcare.

Yahoo News UK has approached the Treasury for comment.