Wealthier families benefit most from rise in formal childcare

Poorer families in disadvantaged areas are significantly less likely to use childcare than those on higher incomes, new research funded by the Department for Education and Skills has found.

A report by the National Centre for Social Research shows that, while use of formal childcare and early years provision is increasing overall, the biggest increases are among higher income families and those living in the most affluent areas.

In a snapshot of the nation, 52% of families with an income of over £32,000 reported using formal childcare within the last week, compared to just 31% of families earning less than £10,000. Affordability was given as a reason by more than one in 10 of families who did not use childcare.

While out-of-school clubs were the most common formal providers, there was felt to be a lack of information about local services generally – despite recent government information campaigns.

Christine Walton, director of childcare charity Daycare Trust, welcomed the increase in formal provision, but said that the complex system of subsidies was intimidating some parents.

“It’s good that there’s more choice for families, they seem to be picking and choosing their services. But we need a simpler way of funding places by giving the subsidies directly to the care organisations. The current system is not helping lower income families enough.”

Childcare and Early Years Provision: a study of parents’ use, views and experiences from www.dfes.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/RR723.pdf

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