More than half of unemployed parents would look for work in order to take advantage of the 30 free hours of childcare, according to Department for Education research.
According to a survey of 851 parents by Ipsos Mori, of those not in work (35 per cent), 60 per cent said they would ‘likely’ or ‘definitely’ seek work to become eligible for the extended entitlement.
Of the parents currently using the 15 hours (65 per cent), 80 per cent said they would take up the extra offer.
The aim of the DfE survey, which took place between March and April 2016, was to understand parents’ views and demand for the extended entitlement. All parents who took part either had a three- or four-year-old or would do so come September.
It follows research by Ceeda and the Pre-School Learning Alliance last month which claimed that tens of thousands of parents could miss out on the extended entitlement because the Government has ‘significantly’ underestimated the number of families likely to be eligible when it rolls out in September.
That research also warned that parents returning to work in order to become eligible for the 30 hours would put extra pressure on capacity and the sustainability of some settings.
USE OF THE 30 HOURS
Nearly all parents paying for eight or more hours of childcare a week said they would take up the additional 15 hours.
The majority of parents whose children are not yet eligible for the 15 hours were ‘likely’ to take up the extended entitlement.
The main reasons parents gave for wanting to take up the extended entitlement were that it would cover their current cost of childcare or reduce their bill; and would allow them to return to work or increase working hours.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, ‘While we of course recognise the importance of establishing likely levels of parental demand for the 30-hour offer, we are concerned that the approach the DfE has taken with this particular study means that its findings are of limited value.
‘Not only does the study include parents of children who will not be eligible for the offer in September because they are already in school or Reception, but it also makes no effort to differentiate between those parents who currently meet the 30-hour earnings eligibility criteria and those that don’t.
‘This means that the study is not necessarily a true reflection of the views of those parents who will be accessing the extended offer later this year, and so is not a reliable source on which we can base estimates of likely demand.’
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, 'The findings from the DfE’s parental research echo the results of our own parent survey in 2015 which showed an appetite for parents to work more hours once they could access 30 hour’s funded childcare.
'This report shows the policy is unsurprisingly very popular, achieving one of the ambitions of the pledge, which was to encourage parents to work more and non-working parents into the job market.
'But the big question still remains – how do nurseries make this offer sustainable on insufficient funding? And how will these businesses under pressure be given the confidence and means to expand, to create enough capacity to meet this expected high demand? Where will we get enough qualified staff unless the GCSE issue and recruitment crisis is addressed?
'The Government will need to consider these questions carefully and look at our proposed solutions for delivering 30 hours, principally allowing nurseries to make obligatory charges to parents for extras such as meals.'