Working parents struggle to find holiday childcare

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Nine in ten local authorities in England do not have enough holiday childcare to meet demand, according to the annual survey by the Family and Childcare Trust.


Finding childcare during the summer holidays is a worry for many parents

The research - now in its 15th year - is based on a survey sent to all local authority family information services.

Its publication comes ahead of new Government guidance giving parents the right to request wraparound and holiday childcare from their child’s school, which comes into force in the autumn.

The report says this has the potential to increase the supply of holiday childcare, particularly in areas that already face gaps in provision.

The trust, which makes a series of recommendations in its report, is calling on the Government to make sure that the new right improves access to affordable childcare for disadvantaged children by making the process as simple and effective as possible and running an information campaign targeting parents and providers on their new right.

For the first time the FCT’s data shows that two areas of Britain do not have enough holiday childcare to meet all age groups and needs - Wales and the East of England.

Overall, 88 per cent of local authorities in England and 78 per cent in Scotland do not have enough holiday childcare to meet demand.

However, despite dire shortages only one in five local authorities indicated that parents had complained about this in the last year, even though at least five million children live in local authorities with insufficient childcare.

Under the Childcare Act 2006 all local authorities in England and Wales have a legal obligation to make sure there is sufficient childcare for working parents and those undergoing training.

Yet the survey found that 29 per cent of local authorities in England and 17 per cent in Wales did not have data that showed if their supply met demand. In Scotland, where there is different legislation, the figure is even higher, with more than half of Scotland’s local authorities unable to provide the data.

Key findings

In Britain the average price of one week full-time (50 hours) of holiday childcare is now £121, compared with £123 in 2015. This represents  a 1.9 per cent decrease in price over the last 12 months.

In contrast to the last six years, which have seen costs rising, the average price of holiday childcare in 2016 is down 1.9 per cent and is now at £121 a week.

The average price of public-sector holiday childcare costs on average £101 a week, compared with £125 a week in the private and non-profit sectors.

The most expensive holiday childcare is in the South East - the highest reported costs was £600 a week.

The biggest gaps in provision are among parents with children aged 12 or older, families in rural areas and disabled children.

The survey was sent to 205 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, with responses received from 177.

Julia Margo, chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust said, ‘Once again British families face a summer holiday of high costs and limited choice when it comes to finding formal childcare.

‘We would like to see real commitment to increasing availability to meet demand, with a particular focus on deprived areas. Families should have a right to a childcare place, in line with a right to a school place.’

She added that the introduction of parents’ ‘right to request’ holiday childcare in their local schools offered a real opportunity to improve the situation and that the Government needed to provide the right information and support to realise this opportunity.

Julian Foster, managing director at Computershare, which sponsored the survey with Community Playthings, said, ‘It’s vital that parents get the support they need to balance their work and family lives, and organisations too benefit when employees are not dealing with great pressures over childcare

‘As a result the expensive costs and shortages of childcare this summer are a real concern, and it’s vital that more support is provided, particularly in poorer areas.’


Source: Family and Childcare Trust Holiday Childcare Survey 2016

The report’s other recommendations for Government

  • Commit to increasing availability to meet demand, with a particular focus on deprived areas. Government should provide local authorities with identified grant funding to support this.
  • Ensure that there are no further delays in Universal Credit and Tax Free Childcare and that the current timetable for roll out is adhered to.
  • Publish detailed statutory guidance for all UK local authorities on auditing childcare market management, including a clear definition of childcare sufficiency and specific measurable indicators.
  • Oblige local authorities to produce online information listing holiday clubs and activities.
  • Give parents a legal entitlement to childcare from the end of parental leave throughout childhood, bringing it in line with the right to a school place.
  • Support schools to co-ordinate local strategies, together with local authorities, police commissioners, leisure, arts and sports organisations, to ensure that there are enough varied summer holiday activities for children of secondary school age.
  • Support parents to benefit from family-friendly work by putting in place an information campaign for parents on their rights and entitlements at work.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, 'Today's Holiday Childcare Survey shows the challenges families face balancing home and working life right through their children's school years.

'Parents need to think about holiday care as soon as they look at school choices and should be supported to make full use of their new rights to request out of school care. Schools should make the most of the opportunity to give parents a year round offer by working in partnership with nurseries that can provide the expertise and capacity they need, with creative approaches to overcome barriers to partnership working.'


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