Interview: Vidhya Alakeson, Research and strategy director at the Resolution Foundation

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Presented evidence to the London Assembly Health and Public Services Committee on the challenges facing parents on finding and affording childcare in the capital

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- What barriers do parents face accessing childcare in London?

Affordability is a bigger problem in London than anywhere else in the country. Our analysis of the DfE's annual childcare and providers survey shows that more parents in London are struggling.

For most families it is a constant juggling act between formal and informal care. But it is interesting that in London more families rely on paid-for childcare, which could be because a lot of people in the capital are more distant from their extended family and so depend on formal care.

Flexibility of childcare is also an issue for parents, in particular those who work atypical hours, but the problem is that providers don't know the demand for out-of-hours care. Most parents who work shifts also presume there isn't care to meet their needs, so they don't look.

- What can be done to make childcare more accessible?

One idea is for employers to work with providers in their area to determine demand. Employers could act as guarantors to ensure provider sustainability, a crucial part of making this work for parents. Providers could also co-ordinate childminders to provide 24-hour care.

The Resolution Foundation is currently working on a similar project in Liverpool through the City Region's Child Poverty Commission, looking at the availability of childcare provision for under-fives in an industrial park, and working with retailers from the Liverpool One retail complex to determine demand for evening and weekend care. We will be reporting back to the Child Poverty Commission with findings early next year.

Another idea is for local authorities to borrow money from the investment market based on future business rates. Tax Increment Financing is widely used in America to fund large infrastructure and is used in the state of Maine to fund childcare. It is being considered by some local authorities.

- Are there ways to make childcare more affordable for parents in London?

One route would be for employers to offer more flexible working to allow parents to better manage their childcare needs. Some are resorting to work from home while caring for their child. It is not ideal, but can help families struggling to meet the costs of formal childcare. We have been following a father who works from home one day a week and cares for his two-year-old. He accepts he has to work later into the evening, as working from home and looking after his child is a juggling act, but it saves the family £100 a month. It is definitely an option if an employer is happy to allow it.

IN NUMBERS

The Tooth Fairy leaves children disparate amounts of cash for one lost milk tooth in different parts of the country

www.MyVoucherCodes.co.uk polled 2,091 parents of children aged four to 12

Hull - 5p

Liverpool - £4.50

London - £5.05

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