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Leading childcare organisations have responded to a Department of Education survey by calling upon the Government to give more financial help to parents during the early years of a child’s life.
The Department’s survey records that 46 per cent of low income families have difficulty in financing childcare, compared to 17 per cent of high income families. Results also found that two-fifths of parents felt they were in the dark regarding the childcare options open to them.
4Children chief executive, Anne Longfield, comments: “This survey shows that childcare is a crucial part of life for most families in modern Britain and is essential in helping parents to work and care for their children. However, as this survey also shows, the cost and inflexible nature of childcare provision today remains a major challenge for too many families.
“Our own recent polling showed that around one-quarter of parents think having more affordable, flexible or accessible childcare would make the most real positive difference to their family life. That’s why parents are looking to all political parties to provide a guarantee for childcare that is affordable and high quality.”
Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), believes that action needs to be taken to prevent childcare costs becoming more unaffordable:
"This report provides yet more evidence that overall childcare cost and accessibility remain a significant challenge for many families. Whilst the data on hourly rates indicates a reduction in cost, we know from other research that the overall, real costs of childcare are increasing. Our members are also telling us that many families are choosing to reduce their total childcare hours in response to increased costs.
“So, whilst it is encouraging to see figures showing an increase in uptake of formal childcare for children from deprived areas, the report also highlights that many parents still feel that finding accessible childcare in their local area is challenging and that cost remains a significant barrier to many wishing to returning to work or study.
“Taken together, these insights show how crucial it is for government to ensure parents have access to a range of quality, flexible childcare options – be that nursery, childminder or pre school, that best meet the needs of their family. Recent extensions of the free entitlement to disadvantaged two year olds will help but PACEY would like to see Government provide more supply side funding, perhaps through further extension of the free entitlement, so more childcare providers can support more parents to access the childcare they need and enabling more children to benefit from high quality care. Key to this will be ensuring the free entitlement is appropriately funded so that childcare settings can cover the cost of delivery and, as part of this, ensure increased investment in the ongoing training of childcare professionals. This would in turn support a longer term ambition that only good or outstanding childcare providers can deliver the free entitlement, something already set as a goal for disadvantaged two year olds.”
Ms Longfield calls for the issue to be placed among Coalition priorities, saying, “4Children is calling on the Government in the Budget this coming spring to extend the pupil premium to early years to increase investment in childcare. This is something the Deputy Prime Minister has indicated he is actively considering. This would be exactly the shift of ambition we need if we’re going to make Britain great for children and families.”