22 Oct 2014, Catherine Gaunt
In a survey of more than 2,500 parents carried out by the Family and Childcare Trust and Netmums, the Government was awarded marks for key factors that affect family life.
The research forms part of the Family and Childcare Trust’s annual Report Card, which it claims is the only annual assessment of how family friendly the UK is. It analyses national data across four areas: financial resources, work-life balance, essential services for families and children, and family friendly infrastructure such as housing and childcare.
Parents rated access to family-friendly work as a C and gave a C+ for family-friendly infrastructure, including childcare and transport.
The Government did better on the provision of high-quality public services – education, healthcare, social care, and physical activity, play and green space. Parents gave a B- Although there was a high-level of satisfaction with public services, the report said that more could be done to narrow the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.
Parents also said that out-of-school and holiday childcare was particularly difficult to find.
Housing costs were the biggest pressures on family finances, but in nearly a quarter of families childcare came first or second as the largest item of expenditure.
Anand Shukla, chief executive, Family and Childcare Trust said, ‘In the last year the Government has taken positive steps to support families, and it should be applauded for extending support for childcare, the pupil premium and free school meals.
‘But the C grade shows that it could do better. Incomes of some of the poorest families in the country have fallen. Too many parents still struggle with low pay and rising costs. Balancing work and family life in a way that suits their families is still an unattainable dream for most parents and childcare costs remain a major barrier to work. The Government needs to do more to address child poverty and living standards.’
Julia McGinley, director of Parent Support at parenting website Netmums said, ‘Thousands of parents discuss these issues on Netmums every day as they are crucial to every family.
‘Family-friendly working practices, affordable childcare, decent housing and transport are not just nice to have; they are fundamental to the quality of family life in the UK. It’s clear much more needs to be done by politicians to ensure policies are designed to help ease the pressure on already hard-stretched families.’
Labour’s shadow minister for childcare and children, Lucy Powell MP, said, ‘This rating is a pretty damning indictment of the government's record for families. Families are struggling to make ends meet and, even in work, can't afford the basics.’
Labour has said that it would extend free childcare for working parents with three- and four-year-olds from 15 to 25 hours per week and introduce a Primary Childcare Guarantee so that parents can access before and after-school places for their child.