Struggle to find child care persists for poorer families

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 child care with hours
that correspond to available local jobs is still preventing parents
from finding employment or gaining new skills, according to
research by the Daycare Trust.

Although there has been an increase in the number of registered
child care places, nearly all are in the private sector and are too
expensive for many parents, especially those with several young

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 child care
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 child care 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 two-and-a-half
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 child care for disadvantaged

Meanwhile, a separate report has found that families and friends
are bridging the child care gap for over two-thirds of working

Seventy per cent of employed women use informal child care and
42 per cent of working lone parents use only informal child care
during term time, rising to 71 per cent during the school

The report points out that there is only one formal child care
place for every five children under the age of eight.

Families in disadvantaged areas use other relatives and friends
to meet their child care needs more than families living in less
disadvantaged areas, the report adds.

The authors of the report, the Daycare Trust and One Parent
Families have called on the government to enhance schemes to allow
relatives and informal carers to register as child care providers
and to ensure that children’s centres provide support to
informal carers.

They are also asking the government to provide opportunities for
parents to experience formal child care through a series of taster
sessions and explore child care packages to support the transition
to work for lone parents.

– Facing the Childcare Challenge: Is the National Strategy
Reaching all Parents?
£5 from the Daycare Trust, 21 St
George’s Road, London SE1 6ES, 020 7840 3350

– Informal Childcare: Bridging the Childcare Gap for
families £5 from the Daycare Trust and One Parent Families,
020 7840 3350.

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