Monday 3 February 2014

Lack of childcare is preventing women returning to work, survey finds. No one is surprised.

On Thursday, the Department of Education released the results of their annual childcare survey. This report, aimed at monitoring the progress of policy initiatives, is based on series of interviews with parents in England and Wales about their experience and use of childcare.

The survey is extensive, and if the little snapshot below is of interest I would thoroughly recommend having a look through the full document (or at least the chapter summaries), and perhaps also the Mumsnet and Resolution Foundation research in to mother’s experiences of childcare. Both provide evidence of real problems with the current system, which will be of no surprise to the vast majority of parents, and will perhaps add voices to the calls for Britain to be more like Scandinavia. Better childcare provision AND our own The Bridge. I think that’s a sort of utopia. 

Here is our summary of the key points / the figures we found interesting:
  • Just over half (58%) of parents thought the quality of their local childcare was fairly or very good, but almost a third (30%) said they didn’t think there were enough places.  
  • Thirty-nine per cent of parents said they had too little information about childcare in their local area. 

  • On perceptions of cost opinions were divided: 32% rated the affordability of local childcare as very or fairly good, with 29% unsure and 39% it was very or fairly poor.
  • However, almost half of parents (49%) said it was easy or very easy to meet their childcare costs with a substantial minority (27%) of families finding it difficult or very difficult to pay.
  • Worryingly, the proportion of non-working lone parents finding it difficult to pay for childcare has significantly increased from 35 per cent in 2011 to 48 per cent in 2012.
  •  But for parents not using childcare, cost wasn’t the main issue – 71% said it was because they preferred to look after their children themselves, compared to 13% who said the cost was preventative. 

Childcare and maternal employment
  • Half of mothers said that having reliable childcare was the most helpful arrangement which would help them to go out to work.
  • The majority of non-working mothers (54%) said they wanted to go out to work but a lack of good quality childcare was preventing them from doing so.  
  • 29% were working atypical hours, defined as before 8am, after 6pm or at the weekend, perhaps as a way to combine work with childcare arrangements or because these were the only hours they could find childcare for.
  • The survey also looked at the reasons why mothers had returned to work. The most common reason cited (28%) was that they found a job they could combine with childcare. But 1 in 10 mothers mentioned a desire to get out of their house, wanting financial independence, or, of course, their family’s financial situation.

The survey took in to account the different experiences of mothers who were partnered or lone, as this can often have a significant impact on their ability to afford childcare and return to work in general. 
  • Partnered women were more likely to be in employment – 67% compared with 55% of lone mothers. And for those working atypical hours, it was more likely to cause problems for lone mothers than those with a partner.

The vast majority of families (78%) with children aged 0-14 use childcare, formal (63%) or informal (39%), so it is hardly surprising that good provision remains somewhat of a holy grail for all political parties. There remain significant problems with cost, and it should be of real concern that childcare provision is a common barrier to women, particularly those who are lone parents, returning to work. The government certainly does have work to do to achieve that “dynamic” childcare market they are aiming for.

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