Working parents need flexible, fully-funded 30-hour offer

Monday, June 8, 2015

The plan to double free childcare for working parents must be properly funded or risks making life more difficult for them, Citizens Advice says.

The charity warns that unless the 30-hour entitlement for three- and four-year-olds is funded adequately and childcare providers are encouraged to offer more flexibility, many working parents who really need the places will miss out.

It highlights that employers could do more to help parents by allowing them to adjust their working arrangements, for example by letting them work some days from home, or alter their hours to fit in with childcare provision.

The number of parents contacting Citizens Advice for help with childcare has doubled in the past year to almost 1,200.

Research by the advice charity last year found that a quarter of the 400 providers surveyed did not offer parents the 15-hour entitlement, although this figure included childminders, of which 46 per cent did not offer the funded places.

It also highlighted the pressure on places with 40 per cent of providers surveyed without any spare places available.

Citizens Advice is releasing new research later this month based on  interviews with 20 working parents, which finds that any changes to work or childcare arrangements can lead to parents working fewer hours, a drop in household income and damage to longterm career plans.

It also puts strain on relationships with family and friends when families need to find last-minute childcare.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said, ‘The lives of working parents are being held hostage by childcare. As the number of in-work parents rises it is vital that the childcare market adapts to meet growing demand. The growth of fluctuating work patterns means many parents now need more flexible childcare arrangements. Employers’ understanding and flexibility is also crucial.

‘Without the right childcare in place parents’ work choices are limited, which can make it harder for them to support their family. It is good news that free childcare is being extended, but providers must be properly funded to offer the 30 hours per week. The Government also needs to work with childcare providers to deliver more flexibility, to fit around people’s changing working lives.’

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