EXCLUSIVERishi couldn't answer my questions! Mother 'snubbed' by the PM as she confronted him over costs of childcare, 'struggling' nurseries and low maternity pay claims the Government 'doesn't understand the pressures on working families'

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A mother snubbed by Rishi Sunak as she tried to explain the childcare headache faced by millions of working parents told MailOnline today: ‘He couldn’t answer my questions.’

The PM’s treatment of Caroline Turner, 40, provoked a furious backlash as he appeared to interrupt her as she spoke, talked over her and turned away while the mother-of-two was making her point.

Caroline got an unexpected chance to speak directly to Mr Sunak when he visited Aldersyde Day Nursery in Hartlepool, County Durham, which her youngsters Seamus, three, and Mamie, 20 months, attend.

But as she attempted to explain her concerns, saying: ‘It doesn’t feel as though the system has got the foundations right…’ he cut across her by asking whether her children attended nursery and their ages.

Caroline Turner was snubbed by Rishi Sunak as she tried to explain her childcare headache

Caroline Turner was snubbed by Rishi Sunak as she tried to explain her childcare headache

The PM's treatment of Caroline Turner, 40, provoked a furious backlash as he appeared to interrupt her, talked over her and turned away while the mothe was making her point

The PM’s treatment of Caroline Turner, 40, provoked a furious backlash as he appeared to interrupt her, talked over her and turned away while the mothe was making her point

Rishi Sunak speaks to parents during a visit to Aldersyde Day Nursery in Hartlepool, today

Rishi Sunak speaks to parents during a visit to Aldersyde Day Nursery in Hartlepool, today

Caroline got an unexpected chance to speak directly to Mr Sunak when he visited Aldersyde Day Nursery in Hartlepool, County Durham, which her children attend

Caroline got an unexpected chance to speak directly to Mr Sunak when he visited Aldersyde Day Nursery in Hartlepool, County Durham, which her children attend

At the home nearby she shares with husband Sean, 45, Caroline said: ‘It didn’t seem necessary to ask that question. Why else would I be there, he knew parents had been invited to talk to him, I wasn’t just an interested bystander.

‘People on social media have said that he was rude, he cut me off while I was speaking, he turned away.

READ MORE – ‘This system hasn’t got it right’: Furious mother confronts awkward Rishi over rising costs of childcare, ‘struggling’ nurseries and low maternity pay – as his new ’15-hours free’ policy is overshadowed by disastrous exchange
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‘That may be true but in the moment I didn’t really notice that, but I did come away feeling he was unable to answer my questions.

‘I don’t want to criticise him personally, but I think it’s fair to say that his government does not understand the pressures placed on working families when it comes to the cost of childcare and the measures he was announcing today won’t help.

‘They will help us a bit in our own bubble, but you have to look beyond that at how they affect the community as a whole and what we’re seeing is that nurseries are closing down all over the place.

‘In practice that means these funded places aren’t available to many many people, but serve the few.’

X users blasted the PM’s demeanour throughout the awkward exchange.

One posted: ‘Why isn’t he looking at her when they’re speaking’ and another questioned: ‘Why is he smirking? Why?’

Another commented: ‘Sunak not looking at her. People never look directly when they are lying or can’t be bothered.’

Caroline said she was surprised to get an audience with the PM, along with other parents, including Sean.
Caroline said she was surprised to get an audience with the PM, along with other parents

Caroline said she was surprised to get an audience with the PM, along with other parents

Caroline, head of business development with a training company, and graphic designer Sean, were paying £1,800 a month for childcare. The couple expect that to drop by around £400

Caroline, head of business development with a training company, and graphic designer Sean, were paying £1,800 a month for childcare. The couple expect that to drop by around £400

READ MORE Rishi Sunak insists he’s delivering on his childcare pledge as first parents benefit from 15 hours of free care

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She said: ‘An email went round asking whether parents would like to discuss childcare with a senior government minister, we weren’t told who that would be.

‘So it was a surprise to find it was Rishi Sunak, but it was also a chance to explain how we felt about it directly.’

Caroline, head of business development with a training company, and graphic designer Sean, were paying £1,800 a month for childcare. The couple expect that to drop by around £400 under the new measures.

She said: ‘We are a family who doesn’t have parental or family support to care for our children, so paying for childcare is the only option available to us.

‘It feels as though there is a motherhood penalty brought about because Statutory Maternity Pay is so poor, so you have to find a childcare provider and it’s always the case that the first childcare bill comes in before your first pay packet.

Pictured is Aldersyde childrens nursery in Hartlepool, where Mr Sunak paid a visit to today

Pictured is Aldersyde childrens nursery in Hartlepool, where Mr Sunak paid a visit to today

As the mother attempted to explain her concerns, saying: 'It doesn't feel as though the system has got the foundations right...' the Prime Minister cut across her

As the mother attempted to explain her concerns, saying: ‘It doesn’t feel as though the system has got the foundations right…’ the Prime Minister cut across her

At the home nearby she shares with husband Sean, 45, Caroline spoke about the visit

At the home nearby she shares with husband Sean, 45, Caroline spoke about the visit

What is changing with childcare in England? 

The Government is expanding existing childcare support from this month in phases. The plan is that by September 2025, most working families with children under five will be entitled to 30 hours of childcare support.

Here are the three phases:

  1. From this month, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours childcare support.
  2. From September this year, 15 hours childcare support will be extended to eligible working parents of children from the age of nine months to three years.
  3. From September 2025, eligible working parents with a child from nine months old up to school age will be entitled to 30 hours of childcare a week.

Like the existing offer, depending on your provider, these hours can be used over 38 weeks of the year or up to 52 weeks if you use fewer than your total hours per week.

The current offer in England, all parents and carers of three and four-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours a week of childcare support. 

Eligible working parents and carers of children aged three to four can also get an extra 15 hours of childcare support, bringing their total up to 30 hours a week.

Some eligible parents of two-year-old children may also be entitled to 15 hours childcare support, if they receive some additional forms of government support.

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‘It seems as though the government expect mums to get back to work, to get on with it, so the infrastructure must be in place to allow that to happen and I don’t think it is.’

Critics of the Government’s scheme to bring in 15 hours free childcare for working parents of two-year-old say it will do more harm than good as nurseries feel the squeeze over costs.

Research by the Coram Family and Childcare charity suggests the availability of nursery and childminder places has worsened for all ages of pre-school children across England, Scotland and Wales.

It says fewer than a third of councils had enough spaces for under-twos in 2024, down from 42 per cent in 2023.

Caroline added: ‘Seamus was on a waiting list to get in to Aldersyde so we were very lucky to get one.

‘My friends from different regions around the country have been telling me they are struggling so badly to get childcare places for their children.

‘Yes the government’s initiative for funded childcare places is good for some but has it been well thought out for the community as a whole? I would say not.

‘Are they getting it right for the nurseries? A nursery closed in town a short while ago which meant an influx into Aldersyde which put pressure on them to recruit

‘It is all well and good getting the funding but if there are not enough places actually available, no one can use it.

‘It’s fine in theory but in practice people can’t access these funded places for their children.’

Sean Turner said: ‘I thought Caroline did a fantastic job in putting those points across.

‘I wholeheartedly agree with what she said and would also ask the government where is the capacity for these funded childcare places coming from?

‘It is all grand having these plans and ideas but where do they see the workforce coming from with people leaving the sector left, right and centre?’