What Does the New report from the Family and Childcare Trust Mean for Parents?

16th Annual Childcare Survey from the Family and Childcare Trust (2017)

The findings of the report make quite disturbing reading to anyone involved in, or needing to use, childcare in the Early Years sector. It has found that parents are paying an average of £6,000 a year for childcare. Astoundingly, this figure is twice as much as the average household spends on food and drink and is based on the part time care of one child. For me, this also highlights the fact that many other parents are having to pay out considerably more for full time care, and others are paying for more than one child in a childcare setting. The result is that some families can be spending up to 45% of their disposable income on average childcare costs. Shocking.

What do the findings of the report mean to parents?

Highlights from the report are;

  • Most local authorities in England report insufficient care places available in their area for two-year-olds eligible for free childcare
  • Inadequate after-school care
  • Inadequate care for disabled children
  • Limited care for parents working non-typical hours i.e. shift work
  • The most expensive areas for childcare are Inner London, Outer London and the South East
  • Low and middle income parents of pre-school children claiming universal credit are only £1.96 an hour better off after paying for childcare, if they work at the minimum wage
  • Two low-earning parents are likely to be eligible for universal credit or working tax credits, but when the second parent goes to work, their entitlement to universal credit will be tapered off by 63p for every £1 earned, from which they will pay some childcare costs
  • Parents of primary-school age children will pay an average of £53 a week for an after school club, or £67 for pick-up and afternoon care by a childminder
  • Only a third of local authorities believe that there will be enough childcare in their area for families who are eligible for the 30-hour funding entitlement
  • 44% of local authorities are concerned that the funding of the free offer will lead to reduced financial sustainability of some settings
  • Nursery childcare fees for this age group has risen by only 0.1 per cent since last year’s report
  • Childminder’s fees have increased by 1.9 per cent since last year

The report calls on the Scottish, Welsh and UK governments to take certain actions to improve provision. It asks them to;

  • Make the universal free early education place for three and four year olds a legal entitlement, bringing free early education in-line with a right to a school place
  • Commit to making sure that every parent will be better off working after childcare costs
  • Evaluate the roll-out of new early years spending, including increases to early education entitlements and tax free childcare, measuring how effective they are at increasing parental employment and narrowing the achievement gap in the early years
  • Make sure that funding for early education is adequate to deliver high quality provision by gathering evidence on the costs of this across the UK and reviewing funding levels every year
  • Improve access to early education and childcare for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) by introducing an admissions code for private providers and, in England, providing statutory guidance to local authorities on use of Inclusion Funds
  • Improve information for parents about local childcare provision, including up-to-date prices and availability

(Childcare Survey, the Family and Childcare Trust, 2017)

It is very clearly time for the government to take note of the recommendations put to them. What is needed is a strategy that ensures every parent has an incentive to work, making sure parents are still better off working after they have paid childcare costs. It is also time that the government was realistic about the imminent ‘free funding’ scheme and increases the amount of funding given per child to at least meet the cost of providers who will be offering these places. If not the results could have a disastrous effect on the early years sector, families with young children and inevitably, the children themselves.

 

 

 

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