Two-thirds of local authorities in England are failing in their legal duty to ensure there is sufficient childcare available in their area this summer – and over half have had their holiday childcare budgets cut in the last year.
These are amongst the key findings of Daycare Trust’s 2012 holiday childcare costs survey, sponsored by Computershare Voucher Services. The survey of Family Information Services and Children’s Information Services across England, Wales and Scotland, which looks at cost and availability of childcare provision in the school holidays also found that:
“This year’s survey illustrates the lottery parents face when it comes to not only finding, but paying for childcare during the long school holidays, with the price of holiday childcare varying by as much as £20 a week between neighbouring regions.
“Council cuts to holiday childcare budgets and Family Information Services are hitting families across Britain hard, with only one in three local authorities now providing the childcare working families need this summer, despite their legal duty to cater for the needs of all. As a result, more parents than ever will face a juggling act to ensure their children are looked after this summer.”
“It's worrying to see an increase in costs for childcare over the summer holidays compared to last year, and in particular such significant increases in costs in some areas of the country.
"It is also concerning to note that despite the 2006 Childcare act, some working parents are still struggling to find the childcare they need.
"We strongly recommend holiday childcare organisations register with the relevant regulator - like Ofsted in England - and a childcare voucher scheme, to enable parents to make pre-tax salary savings on their childcare, reducing the pinch felt by rising costs and the likelihood that they have to take leave from work in order to make sure their children are cared for during the holidays."
Daycare Trust believes that all levels of government can help make holiday childcare more accessible and affordable by:
● All local authorities in England and Wales should fulfil their obligations set out in the Childcare Act 2006 and its statutory guidance in relation to ensuring there is sufficient childcare for working parents and those making the transition back to work. In Scotland local authorities should fulfil the obligations of the Early Years Framework 2008. Where private and voluntary sector providers are unwilling or unable to fill significant gaps in childcare provision, local authorities should do so.
● The Department for Education, as well as the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, should hold local authorities to account for failures to uphold legal obligations to provide sufficient childcare.
● The Department for Education, as well as the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, should map the provision of school holiday activities for older children and work with local authorities to ensure a sufficient range of activities for older children in all parts of Britain.
● Local authorities should calculate the impact of cuts to childcare and play service budgets, and not implement cuts that increase levels of child poverty in their area or risk children being left unsupervised.
● The Government should reverse the cuts to the childcare element of Working Tax Credit so that up to 80 per cent of registered childcare costs are covered.
● The Department for Work and Pensions should ensure that the process for claiming the new Universal Credit works effectively for parents who need to pay for holiday childcare, for example by releasing payments quickly when costs rise suddenly during school holidays.
● Local authorities should collect information on which childcare providers accept childcare vouchers and use this information to encourage all childcare providers, but particularly holiday clubs and after-school providers, to accept them. Providers should also be able to register with the relevant regulator, even if they are only providing childcare for children aged eight and over, so that parents can use childcare vouchers and the childcare element of Working Tax Credit, to help pay for their childcare.
● Ministers should promote the business case for family-friendly work practices including term-time working and the use of childcare vouchers.
● Central government should research whether a reconfiguration of the school year would make it easier for parents to find childcare.
Daycare Trust's Holiday childcare costs survey 2012 is kindly sponsored by:
Making More Great and Affordable Childcare a Reality