Parents forced to take time off work because of holiday childcare shortage

Friday, July 18, 2014

Nearly one in five parents has taken sick leave to care for their child because of a lack of available holiday childcare.

The Family and Childcare Trust’s annual ‘Holiday Childcare Survey’, says often ‘patchy’ and expensive out-of-school provision means parents are forced to take time off work to look after their children during the six-week summer break.

The research is based on a Netmums poll of 1,587 parents in partnership with the charity, along with responses from 177 local authority Family Information Services.

Of the parents surveyed, 25 per cent said they had been forced to cut their hours, 12 per cent had given up their job and 17 per cent had taken days off sick to care for their child in the holidays.

The charity’s figures reveal that one day missed off work by parents every year equates to more than 900,000 lost working days, costing the economy nearly £100 million per annum.

Some parents also reported that their employers are less sympathetic to their caring obligations, with 28 per cent of respondents having had a request to change work arrangements over the holidays refused.

Another difficulty for 28 per cent of parents is finding holiday childcare in a convenient location.

According to the Family and Childcare Trust, gaps in provision have increased rather than decreased since the implementation of the Childcare Act 2006, with 49 per cent of English local authorities having adequate childcare for working parents five years ago, compared to just 27 per cent in 2014.

There has also been a fall in the number of private, voluntary and independent (PVI) providers of out-of-school care in 35 per cent of local authorities in England over the last 12 months.

Parents also expressed difficulty finding affordable childcare. This was a problem for 35 per cent of survey respondents.

Responses from Family Information Services revealed that holiday childcare is 1.7 per cent more expensive now than in 2013. While prices have marginally fallen in the maintained sector, they have slightly risen in the PVI sector.

On average the weekly cost of full-time holiday childcare, based on 50 hours of care, in Britain is now £114.51.

Maintained sector provision costs an average of £96.04 per week, compared with £118.65 per week in the PVI sector.

In light of the findings, the Family and Childcare Trust is calling on the Government to:

  • ensure that all parents benefit from family-friendly work by putting in place an information campaign for parents on their rights and entitlements at work;
  • where there is insufficient holiday childcare, helping local authorities fill gaps, and working with parents to hold councils to account if they fail to do so;
  • encouraging English local authorities and the Education Funding Agency to work with schools to make sure their premises and facilities are used to make sure their premises and facilities are used to provide childcare and activities over holiday periods;
  • a commitment to a new childcare strategy covering under-fives and children of school age. As part of this, an independent review of childcare funding should be launched.

Anand Shukla, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said, ‘A combination of unaffordable prices, lack of holiday childcare and inflexible employers is not only causing stress for parents, but it’s bad for the economy.

‘Most parents have no choice but to work, and should not have to take sick days to manage childcare. This is not the way to operate a modern economy, and this is why we are calling on employers and head teachers to help parents manage the school holidays, and on government for a new childcare strategy that properly represents the realities working families face today.’

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