Working Families responds to Government plans to double free childcare for 3&4 year olds
Published: 1 Jun 2015
Working Families welcomes any increase in the amount of free childcare that working parents can access.
Whilst the increase to 30 hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds will be a bonus for this group of parents, working parents need childcare from when a mother returns to work after having a baby, normally at the end of maternity or parental leave and doesn’t stop until those children are well into their teens. This increase helps to meet some of the cost challenges faced by working parents but only for a short period of time. Working Families agrees with the CBI policy proposal that an entitlement to free childcare should be available from the end of maternity or parental leave to help working parents with the costs of childcare.
We are concerned that a number of parents will not benefit fully from this proposal:
- parents with disabled children who already struggle to find suitable childcare which meets their childs often complex needs.
- parents working atypical hours (early mornings, evenings and weekends) where childcare may simply not be available. This has implications for those on Universal Credit where in-work conditionality requires them to work a certain number of hours per week. Those in the service and retail trades are often expected to work shifts that do not conform to the normal 9-5.
Parents are not just concerned about the accessibility/availability of childcare but also the quality of that childcare. For too many parents the distance between available childcare places and their workplace means that they find it very difficult to manage. This is exacerbated when they also have a child at school and the care for their younger child is in a different location entirely.
Childcare providers have expressed their concerns as to the amount of funding from the Government for these free places, stating that some providers already struggle with the 15 hours free childcare. One concern is that nurseries in disadvantaged areas, where parents cannot pay for extras or extra hours, will close, leaving many parents without childcare at all. We welcome the announcement that this funding is to be reviewed and hope that the Government will listen to the concerns of the industry and of parents.
A third of the parents who answered our Modern Families Index report actually wanted to use less childcare and be able to balance their work and caring responsibilities more equally. For this there needs to be a better supply of well paid, quality part time or flexible roles available to working parents and carers. Working Families has developed a strap line, Happy to Talk Flexible Working which encourages employers to advertise their vacancies flexibly and Price Waterhouse Cooper have recently become the first national organisation to adopt the strap line.
Sarah Jackson, Working Families Chief Executive said:
So many of the parents who contact our Working Families Legal Advice Line are faced with the dilemma that they can’t afford not to work but due to the cost of childcare they can’t afford to work. We need a system that enables parents to both work and balance their childcare costs. We need a better supply of quality part time work, too often we only see part time work available in the low paid, high hours sectors such care work. Keeping women in touch with the labour market not only improves equality in the home but also reduces the instances of female poverty in later life.
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