Making Britain Great for Children and Families: The Childcare Guarantee
As we move beyond the economic crisis, we have an opportunity to rethink our aspirations for children and families and we must demand a shift in ambition across every aspect of life in Britain today. This includes the way we support all parents with their childcare needs.
High quality childcare supports children’s development, and helps parents - particularly mothers - back to work. It brings particular benefits to the most disadvantaged, getting parents back into work or working more hours, reducing child poverty and helping to improve life chances. Yet too many families are unable to take advantage of these benefits, with childcare provision not as flexible or affordable as it needs to be.
Increasingly unaffordable childcare costs: Childcare costs have increased quickly in recent years, with a 27% rise in childcare costs since 2008, twice the rate of inflation. It’s simply become unaffordable for too many, with many parents now paying what seems like the equivalent of a second mortgage on these costs. Nearly one-third of the average full-time wage is consumed by childcare costs. And the UK compares unfavourably to many other countries across Europe. In Denmark, families pay up to 25% of the cost of day care, with those on low incomes or single parents paying between nothing and 25% of the cost, with discounts for siblings. The Government makes up the difference. The country is ranked fifth for female employment among the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Britain is 15th.
Childcare today is not family friendly: 4Children’s research shows that a majority (72%) of people do not believe that childcare support available in England is geared with families in mind, with a bureaucratic maze to navigate, and all too often a lack of understanding and inflexibility from providers as to their individual needs. Available childcare provision simply does not have the flexibility to meet the demands of when and where it is needed for the modern workforce and families.
Inadequate number of quality childcare places: As recently as twenty years ago, childcare was seen as a private family matter. In 1990 there were just 59,000 nursery places in England, but there are over 1.6 million places today. Informal support from friends and family, including up to an estimated seven million grandparents, does fill some of this gap. Yet, despite this, there is simply not enough high quality provision to meet existing demand from families. And this demand for places is growing, in part because of that created from the Government’s new offer of free places for 2 year olds, but also at school age due to more parents working, from demographic factors including population rise, and from social mobility with parents often living far away from relatives who may otherwise be able to help.
Shortage of high quality childminder staff: Over the last five years we have seen a 9% decline in the total number of childminders, in part due to the increased demands for quality being placed on childminders through the statutory framework (though these changes have, on average, brought positive benefits for children). More still needs to be done however to make childminding a more attractive profession
Increasing pressure on budgets for children and family services: in 2013-14, local authorities will be spending nearly 15% less on Children’s Centres and Early Years services than in 2012-13.
Download 4Children's manifesto for the future: Making Britain Great for Children and Families