Parents in poverty still face an uphill struggle to find
suitable care for their children, a new report suggests.
The lack of decent quality, affordable childcare with hours that
correspond to available local jobs is still stopping parents
finding employment or gaining new skills, according to research by
the Daycare Trust.
Although there has been in increase in the number of registered
childcare places, nearly all are in the private sector and are too
expensive for many parents, especially those with several young
children. The number of public and voluntary sector provided places
has declined, and the typical cost of a nursery place for a child
under two is now £128 a week.
The government has responded by introducing the childcare
element of the Working Tax Credit, but the average award is less
than £50 a week and all parents have to pay at least 30 per
cent of the cost of each place.
The government has also created new child care places in the 20
per cent most deprived areas through initiatives such as
Neighbourhood Nurseries, Sure Start and Children’s Centres.
But 46 per cent of children living in poor households do not live
in the neighbourhoods where these initiatives are targeted so are
not benefiting from the places.
Even those families living in the targeted 20 per cent of areas
are not guaranteed childcare places, the report points out. For
example there are only 80,000 Sure Start places – just one
for every 11 children living in Sure Start areas.
All three and four year olds are now entitled to a free part
time nursery place, but these are typically for 2½ hours a
day, and sometime for only three days a week. Such restricted hours
are unlikely to offer parents’ the time to earn enough money
to lift their children out of poverty.
The Daycare Trust argues that the government’s welfare to
work and anti-poverty strategies are being put at risk because of
the lack of affordable, suitable childcare for disadvantaged
‘Facing the Childcare Challenge: is the national strategy
reaching all parents are children?’ £5 from the Daycare Trust,
21 St George’s Road, London SE1 6ES