Holiday childcare system in need of urgent reform

Holiday childcare costs have risen by 3% in the last year, says a new report.



The Government needs to urgently reform and simplify the childcare funding system for families of school aged children where shortages are acute and existing support to pay for childcare often doesn’t work, according to a new report on holiday childcare.

As the summer holidays approach, the Coram Family and Childcare says the average cost of holiday childcare has risen by 3 per cent – above the 2.1% rate of inflation – in the last year with the average price of holiday childcare standing at £138 per week in Britain. Prices in England are significantly higher than in Wales and Scotland and they vary across England, for instance, prices in the South East are 37 per cent higher than in the North West at an average of 162 a week. The report estimates parents could face a childcare bill of up to £800, more than double the cost of term time childcare.

Another issue is availability of childcare. The report says only 31 per cent of English local authorities have enough holiday childcare available for parents in their area who work full time while holiday clubs in the private, voluntary and independent sector are on average 25 per cent more expensive than those run by local authorities. The report says only 10 per cent of holiday provision is run by local authorities.

While childcare availability has improved slightly in the last few years, the biggest gaps in England are for disabled children, where only 17 per cent of local authorities say they have enough childcare, and for 12 to 14 year olds, where 14 per cent have enough.

The report says government policies such as tax-free childcare and the right to request wraparound childcare have not proven effective in helping parents to access affordable childcare. For wraparound childcare, only four per cent of local authorities report a positive impact for holiday childcare, a figure which has not changed since last year.

Coram Family and Childcare makes several recommendations, including providing upfront payments for the childcare element of Universal Credit, strengthening the ‘right to request’ wraparound childcare policy, including placing a duty on schools to assess and respond to requests and providing better information for parents on making effective applications and reviewing the efficacy of tax-free childcare.

It also calls for the Government to ensure there is enough year round childcare for every working family that needs it, including school age children, with the groups that currently face the biggest shortages – 12 to 14 year olds and disabled children – being priorities.

Childcare difficulties

Joanne Lucas says she has struggled with both after school and holiday childcare and was forced to find a new job as a result.

She has a five year old daughter and lives in North Tyneside with her partner who works longer hours than her. Her previous employer wouldn’t change her hours to suit her child starting school. That meant she had to change jobs in November after her daughter started school. Her current hours are 9am to 3pm, which means she needs help with dropping and picking up her daughter. Her 85-year-old mother often picks her daughter up from school as she finishes work 10 minutes before school is out and can’t quite get there in time.

Although after school and breakfast childcare is relatively easy to find as there is a nursery attached to the school which does breakfast and after school clubs, it is more expensive than schools who have their own clubs. The variety of holiday childcare on offer is not wide. For instance, local schools offer subsidised sports camps in the holidays, but her daughter doesn’t like doing sport all day.

This summer she will sending her daughter to two weeks of sports camp, will take two weeks off work and her daughter will spend two weeks with Joanne’s mum. The family have no other living grandparents.

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