Parents struggle to find affordable childcare

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Parents face a postcode lottery in finding affordable childcare over the summer holidays, according to a survey by the Daycare Trust.

The average cost of holiday childcare now stands at £558 per child - an average of £93 per week and a 3% rise on last year, according to a study by the Daycare Trust.

The survey reveals that parents face paying different amounts for holiday childcare depending on where they live, with parents in the South East topping the table at £105.74 a week.

Prices also vary depending on the provider. Families could pay £119.32 per week for private childcare in the East of England, while families in Wales are likely to pay £58.89 per week for council-run childcare, the trust's annual holiday childcare costs survey shows.

The findings are based on data obtained from local authority Family Information Services (FIS) in England and Wales, and Childcare Information Services in Scotland.

The survey found that just a fifth of Family Information Services said they had enough holiday childcare to meet parental demand.

Almost two in three (63%) of these services said parents had complained about a lack of childcare in their area.

Specifically, the trust found 60 of the 150 Family Information Services (FIS) in England had parents reporting a lack of care. In Wales, 10 of the 21 FIS said parents faced a shortage of holiday childcare. In Scotland 6 of the 31 Childcare Information Services (CIS) said parents were struggling to find cover.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Daycare Trust said: "We are hugely concerned by the gaping hole in the provision of holiday childcare across the country. The situation continues to get worse with the impact of local authority spending cuts which we see are already attacking holiday childcare provision.

"Where provision is available, parents are being expected to shell out the equivalent cost of a family holiday abroad over the course of the summer - simply for the privilege of having their children looked after so that they can attend work."

"If the government are serious about getting parents into employment then they must take a comprehensive approach to investing in more holiday and wraparound childcare, whilst ensuring tax credits really do 'make work pay', so that affordable, accessible, quality childcare is available in every community, for every child.

"The recent changes to tax credits mean that many working parents will in future receive less help with childcare costs - this is a seriously bad move and means more help is needed to make childcare more affordable."

The trust is calling for new measures to be put in place to increase the amount of holiday childcare available.

The recommendations include:

  • Measures need to be put in place to increase availability of holiday childcare provision, given the trend towards decreasing provision and the emphasis on working parents within the government's welfare reform programme. Holiday playschemes should be protected from local authority cuts as they provide an essential service to parents.
  • Central government, building on the current summer holiday childcare pilots, should provide investment to ensure holiday childcare is more flexible and affordable for families.
  • Government should increase the proportion of childcare costs paid through tax credits to 100 per cent; increase the maximum levels that can be claimed by region to accommodate higher childcare costs in some areas, and design a simplified system whereby the childcare element is separated from working tax credit and to give all families some help towards their childcare costs.
  • Local authorities should ensure Families Information Services are funded appropriately, so that they are able to provide a full service to parents, and provide a brokerage role for holiday childcare where required.