Parents in deprived areas less likely to use funded childcare

Katy Morton
Friday, January 3, 2020

Children living in the poorest areas are less likely to attend formal childcare settings and their parents are less aware of the free entitlement, according to new DfE statistics.

The DfE survey found that fewer parents in deprived areas use formal childcare
The DfE survey found that fewer parents in deprived areas use formal childcare

The latest Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents in England shows that 74 per cent of children living in the least deprived areas took up a childcare place in 2019, compared to 57 per cent of children in the most deprived areas. 

The annual statistics also reveal that three- and four-year-olds are most likely to attend formal childcare settings, while children aged one and under are least likely.

A third of children from birth to four used informal childcare last year. Children were most likely to be cared for by grandparents.

Parents on the lowest incomes (earning below £10,000) and those living in the most deprived areas were less likely to be aware of the entitlement to 15 hours of free childcare.

Childcare costs

According to the survey, the average (median) weekly amount paid by families to childcare providers was £45 in 2019, unchanged from the previous year.

Just over a quarter (27 per cent) of parents said they found it difficult or very difficult to meet their childcare costs, a slight rise from 2018. The DfE attributed this to a rise to the cost of childcare for children from birth to to two.

‘There is evidence that the rise in the proportion of parents finding it difficult to meet their childcare costs is largely attributable to families with a child aged 0 to 2,’ the report said.

Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of parents rated the overall quality of local childcare provision as ‘very’ or ‘fairly good’.

Tax-Free Childcare

Two in five (40 per cent) parents with a child aged up the age of four said they were aware of the Tax-Free Childcare scheme - up from 32 per cent in 2018

The survey also shows an increase in the number of families who have opened a Tax-Free Childcare account on the previous year. In 2019, 13 per cent of families opened an account compared to 8 per cent in 2018. 

Sector response

The Early Years Alliance expressed concern that children in the most deprived areas are going without professional care and education. 

Chief executive Neil Leitch said, ‘The value of a quality early education is now recognised by most parents and these figures show that more and more of them are accessing a formal childcare place.

'That makes it all the more concerning however that a third of children in the most deprived areas are not. These are the children who stand to gain the most from quality childcare provision and we must do more to ensure they are able to access it because, at the moment, we are clearly not doing enough.

‘Give-aways like funded hours and Tax-Free Childcare are always going to be popular with parents struggling to pay the bills but a more serious and sustainable approach to the early years is needed. There are perhaps no simple solutions to ensure all children access early education, but, if this new Government is serious about helping our most disadvantaged communities, then funding levels need to increase and policy that better targets support where its impact will be greatest should be considered.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, ‘Some of these figures are encouraging, such as almost three-quarters of parents rating their local childcare as good or very good.

‘We are concerned however about the number of parents who are still unaware of the two-year-old childcare offer, especially in deprived areas. This is where early education can make the most difference and more must be done to reach all communities in understanding the benefits for their children. 

‘The number of parents aware of Tax-Free Childcare is also still very low. The Government must do more to raise awareness of this support.’

Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, added, 'While it is good to see that parents are aware of some Government funding, we know there are still families who do not receive the information and guidance they need to make informed childcare choices. Local authorities and health visitors are key in helping to grow parental understanding and Government needs to invest in a public information campaign that helps parents understand the importance of early education and the different providers offering this.'



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