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Charity report calls for wide-ranging childcare reforms to lift children out of poverty.
In a report entitled The Childcare Guarantee, 4Children, the national charity for children and families, is calling for a guarantee for quality, affordable childcare for every parent of a 0-14-year-old who needs it. A first step towards achieving this would be to extend the pupil premium, which supports children from poorer families, to include pre-school children in the next budget on 19 March.
4Children also calls for working parents on tax credits or Universal Credit to have 85 per cent of their childcare costs met by the state. As the Government consults on its child poverty strategy, 4Children argues that providing affordable childcare would be a key way to improve the lives of the 3.5m children living in poverty today, by getting parents back into work or helping them work longer hours, and by providing children with support at the crucial early stages of their life.
Formal childcare use remains much lower in the most deprived areas: more than half of families with incomes of more than £45,000 use formal childcare compared with just one-third of families who earn below £10,000.
4Children chief executive Anne Longfield said: “Childcare is one of the biggest challenges for parents today who are making tough decisions between children, family and work. Too many parents are still prevented from returning to work or working the hours they need because childcare is too expensive.
“Although we are pleased that all the main political parties have committed to incremental improvements in childcare they all fall short of the radical shift needed to make childcare available and affordable for all families. More ambition is needed to deliver a guarantee of childcare to meet the needs of the modern workforce over the next 10 years.
“As an immediate step to begin to help deliver the changes needed, 4Children is calling on the chancellor to commit in his budget next week to extend the pupil premium from schools to the early years to benefit some of the most disadvantaged children by increasing support into childcare provision.”
In The Childcare Guarantee, 4Children calls for the inception of a ten-year plan towards a 0-14 universal childcare guarantee for all families, including such things as access to affordable, high quality childcare from the end of parental leave until school, the guarantee of 8am to 6pm ‘wraparound’ childcare for 4 to 14 year olds in and around schools, including during holidays.
4Children’s survey also found 28 per cent of people thought more family friendly workplaces would make a positive difference to family life. As a direct consequence of being unable to afford childcare to support their own working patterns some parents have had to give up their job; others who want to work are prevented from doing so.
The high costs of childcare mean that the price of keeping a foot on the career ladder for some employees means spending a significant proportion of their wages – in some cases more than a mortgage - on childcare, and often pushing families deeper into debt.
New additional analysis on family incomes by 4Children shows 31 per cent of the disposable income of the average family with children is presently taken up by childcare costs and that, at the current rate of increase, in 10 years’ time 40 per cent of the disposable income of an average family will be consumed by childcare costs. According to 4Children’s calculations, in 50 years’ time all of a family’s disposable income will be spent on childcare.
4Children would like to see the right to request flexible working and unpaid leave extended to all grandparents who care for a grandchild on a regular basis. It also wants to see it becoming more common for dads to be allowed to work flexibly so they can do the school run and take days off work to look after a sick child.
Ms Longfield comments: “A new commitment is needed to making Britain great for families as thriving families are assets to the economy.” Read more about 4Children at www.daynurseries.co.uk/news/article.cfm/id/1562414/profile-4children-boss-pupil-premium-early-years