Holiday childcare costs rise by 3 per cent

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Working parents face a holiday childcare bill of more than £800 over the school summer holidays, according to new research.

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The charity's report reveals a lack of holiday childcare provision

Coram Family and Childcare’s 15th annual Holiday Childcare Survey found holiday childcare prices have risen by 3 per cent since last summer.

The average cost of one week of holiday childcare is now £138, more than double the price parents pay for after-school clubs during term time, the survey said.

Responses from 96 per cent of English local authorities to the freedom of information requests sent by Coram Family and Childcare suggested working parents would have to find an average of £828 for six weeks of holiday childcare per child.

This means families will spend an extra £484 on covering the summer holiday period compared to term-time childcare.

Coram Family and Childcare said parents face a ‘postcode lottery’, with huge variation in the costs of holiday childcare across the country.

Prices are highest in the South East according to the survey, at an average of £162 per week per child. This is 37 per cent higher than the North West, where childcare costs were found to be lowest, at £119 per week.

 The survey also highlights gaps in the availability of holiday childcare.

Just one in three local authorities reported having enough holiday childcare for all parents in their area who work full time.

This gap was bigger for parents of children with disabilities, with less than a fifth (17 per cent) of local authorities able to provide enough holiday childcare to meet their needs.

The Government introduced a ‘right to request’ policy in 2016 which allows parents to request that their child’s school provides childcare or opens up their facilities for another provider to do so.

However, the survey research found just 4 per cent of local authorities say this policy has had a positive effect on the availability of holiday childcare, the same proportion as last summer.

With low-income families who rely on universal credit to help with childcare costs only receiving money in arrears, Coram Family and Childcare is calling for Government reform to improve support for families.

Megan Jarvie, head of Coram Family and Childcare, said, ‘Working families are being left with few options this summer. The high price and low availability of childcare means that many struggle to stay in work, or can end up paying to work. Families need to see urgent action to fill the gaps in availability and financial support.’

Jonathan Broadbery head of policy and external relations at National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, ‘Trying to find affordable, accessible childcare during the school holidays is still a huge concern for families.

‘In England and Scotland, Government-funded places for under-fives are technically only for term-time which can make those financial headaches for working parents worse. This will be the first year where working families across Wales will be able to access 48 weeks of funded childcare.

‘Nurseries play a vital role as many widen their existing services to care for schoolchildren during holiday time. However, NDNA’s recent early years workforce survey showed that these childcare providers are struggling to recruit and retain staff to run their normal business, let alone cope with the extra demand that extended holidays bring.

‘It’s a worry that only a third of councils believe they have enough holiday childcare in their area. While in Scotland the fact that almost three quarters of councils (74 per cent) don’t know whether they have enough childcare shows that they should get a better understanding of the needs of families in their areas.

‘However, if the Government’s underfunding of places for pre-school children continues, nurseries and other providers won’t be sustainable and the picture will get a lot worse.’

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said, 'We know some parents struggle with the cost of childcare, which is why we are spending around £3.5 billion on our early education offers this year alone. Parents are able to use their free entitlements with a range of provider types, some offering childcare all year round.

'Working parents with children up to the age of 16 can also claim back up to 85 per cent of eligible childcare costs through Universal Credit.

'Over the summer holidays we are also supporting around 50,000 disadvantaged children and their parents with a programme of free activities backed by £9.1 million, and just this weekend we announced an extra £2.5m next year to help schools open up their facilities at weekends and over the holidays as part of the School Sport Action Plan.'

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