Rise in holiday childcare costs 'another blow' for struggling families

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Parents are facing a 5 per cent rise to holiday childcare costs in England this year, according to new research.

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It now costs an average of £800 per child for six weeks of holiday childcare, reveals the Family and Childcare Trust research

The Family and Childcare Trust’s 17th annual Holiday Childcare survey finds that the average cost for just one weeks' holiday childcare in England is now £134.66 -an increase of 5-per-cent on last year.

The average cost of a week's hoilday childcare across the UK is slightly lower at £133 (see below table).

For six weeks of holiday childcare, parents will be charged an average of £800 per child.

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However, prices vary across the country, information sent from local authorities’ Family Information Services show. In the East of England, a week of holiday childcare costs £169 on average-34 per cent more than in the West Midlands at £126 per week.

The Family and Childcare Trust sent a survey to all Family Information Services at local authorities in April. For those that did not respond after a month, the Trust put in Freedom of Information requests 

The Trust says the rise in holiday childcare costs is 'another blow for families already struggling to find and afford childcare over the long school holiday', and particularly problematic for families on Universal Credit who are paid money to cover childcare costs in arrears. For Universal Credit families this means having to pay club fees before claiming back support.

Limited provision

The research also reveals a lack of availability of provision as just one in four local authorities report having enough holiday childcare for all parents working full-time, dropping to one-in-eight for children with disabilities. While there has been a slight increase in the amount of holiday childcare since last year, the Trust says large gaps still remain.

It also argues that the 'right to request' holiday and wrap-a-round for parents for their children’s school, a Government policy introduced in September 2016, has yet to make a significant difference to families. The Trust found that just one in four local authorities said the policy had had a positive effect on whether there is enough holiday childcare. This has not changed since last year.

The right to request holiday childcare allows parents to request that their child’s school provides before and after-school and/or holiday childcare or opens up their facilities for another provider to do so.

The Family and Childcare Trust are now calling on the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments to:

  • Fix the support for childcare costs to meet the needs of school age children. This would include moving to upfront payments for the childcare element of Universal Credit and making sure that every family is able to claim financial support to help them to pay for holiday childcare. Currently some parents are not able to claim Tax-Free Childcare, Universal Credit or working tax credit to help with the cost of childcare because it is not, and is not required to be, registered with Ofsted, Care Inspectorate or Care Inspectorate Wales.
  • Strengthen the ‘right to request’ policy so it tackles the persistent gaps in school age childcare provision. This should include placing a duty on schools to assess and respond to requests.
  • Make sure there is enough year-round childcare for every working family that needs it.
  • Work with schools and local authorities to find a childcare solution for teacher training days.

Ellen Broome, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said, ‘Now is the time to urgently address childcare policy for school age children. For too many families, the long summer holiday is a time of stress and expense as they try to patch together a solution despite the gaps in availability and financial support.

‘Current Government policies, including the new ‘right to request’, are not working to help families to deal with school age childcare. This price rise is another blow for families already struggling to find and afford childcare over the long school holidays.’

Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi said, 'This Government is doing more than any before to support parents with the cost of childcare. We are investing record amounts – around £6 billion a year by 2020 – to make sure as many children as possible have access to high-quality care.

'We are also looking at the most effective ways to support parents with wrap around care for older children, which includes £26 million to kick-start and improve breakfast clubs in at least 1,700 schools and £2million to fund free enrichment activities and healthy food to disadvantaged children during the summer holidays.'

Shadow minister for early years Tracy Brabin said, 'It is clear that this Tory Government is failing to deliver affordable childcare for families across the country.

'Once again the majority of local authorities are reporting that they do not have the capacity to deliver the childcare parents need in the holidays, yet ministers are doing absolutely nothing to tackle the problem.

'The Government’s failure to provide free, high-quality childcare to those who need it will leave many parents locked out of the workplace.'

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said, 'Holiday childcare continues to be a challenging issue for families.

'Many nurseries already work with parents, schools and other providers to offer services for holiday childcare.

'Many nurseries are struggling with recruiting and retaining high quality staff due to low wages which is because they are paid inadequate funding rates for “free” childcare hours. This becomes even more of a problem during the holiday season as many qualified staff are on leave themselves. 

'Due to these staffing shortages, many settings are forced to secure new recruits from agencies which pushes up the cost. it is evident that this will impact on parents financially.'

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