More parents not accessing formal childcare

The number of parents using formal childcare is falling as costs rise and availability falls, according to new figures.

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The number of parents using formal childcare has fallen since 2018, despite a long term trend towards more mums working full time as the cost of living rises, according to newly released Government figures.

The figures show the number of parents using formal childcare fell from 55% in 2017 to 47% in 2022. The fall was greater for older children, with 71% of 5 to 11 years olds receiving any form of childcare in 2017 compared to 59% in 2022, whilst the figures for 0 to 4 year olds were 76% in 2017 and 71% in 2022.

Cost is one key factor. The figures show that since 2021 there has been an increase in the percentage of parents of children aged 0 to 4 years only who are finding it difficult or very difficult to meet their childcare costs, from just under a quarter in 2021 (24%) to around a third (32%) in 2022.

Availability is another issue. There was a fall in the percentage of parents with children aged 0 to 4 years who felt that the number of local childcare places was ‘about right’, from 46% in 2021 to 41% in 2022.  There was also an increase in the percentage of parents of children aged 0 to 4 years old who felt there were not enough childcare places, up from 28% in 2021 to 34% in 2022.  There was a similar increase in the percentage of parents with children aged 0 to 14 years who had problems finding flexible childcare.  A quarter (25%) of parents of children aged 0 to 14 years reported problems with finding childcare flexible enough to meet their needs, a rise from 21% in 2021.

Nevertheless, more mums are working, up 10% from 2010, and more mums are now working full time. In 2010, 25% of all mothers were working full time, but by 2022 this had almost doubled to 41%.  In 2010, 38% of mothers were working part time, but by 2022 this had decreased to 32%.

However, there was a decrease in the percentage of working mothers who reported that having reliable childcare helped them go to work.  In 2022, 38% of working mothers of 0 to 14 year olds said that having reliable childcare helped them go to work, a decrease from 42% in 2021. So what are they doing? Many seem to be relying on relatives. 62% of parents of pre-school children said they had relatives to help with childcare. Just eight per cent of working mothers said the 30 ‘free’ hours for three and four year olds helped the work, with that number only rising to 36% for those with children of that age.

The number of mums who work part time who said they would move full time work if there were on barriers fell from 17% in 2021 to 12% in 2022. Just under half (49%) of non-working mothers said that if they could arrange good quality childcare that was convenient, reliable and affordable, they would prefer to go out to work.

Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, said: “Today’s survey results show exactly what happens when you leave a sector underfunded and inadequately supported.

“Not only are almost a third of families with pre-school aged children struggling with early years costs, but 34% said there were not enough childcare and early years places. We know that nurseries, pre-schools and childminders doing all they can to both keep costs down for parents and provide flexible places, but when faced with years of underfunding and an ever-worsening recruitment and retention crisis, it is fast becoming an impossible task.

“What’s more, the fact only 60% of mothers with children under four said having reliable childcare helped them to work is deeply concerning, especially when considering the upcoming expansion of the 30-hour-offer. If the system is not working now, adding more hours while continuing to underfund providers is clearly only going to make the situation much worse.”



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