A new survey by the Early Years Alliance shows over a quarter of parents are finding it hard to access the childcare they need to work.
More than a quarter (27%) of parents of under-fives are struggling to balance work and childcare because of difficulties accessing childcare, with those in disadvantaged areas most affected, according to a new survey.
The survey of more than 3,000 parents by the Early Years Alliance found that a third (36%) of parents said that difficulties accessing childcare had negatively impacted their work life, with nearly half of those (47%) reporting that it had negatively impacted their mental health.
Parents in deprived areas were 22% more likely to say they were struggling to balance work and childcare, with four out of five (80%) saying the government is not doing enough to help them access affordable, accessible childcare.
One in six parents (16%) reported having to reduce their working hours with the average number of hours falling 41% – from 36.7 to just 21.7 hours per week. Single parents were twice as likely to be forced to change jobs or to leave work entirely as a result (11% versus 6% for dual-parent households). Ninety-two per cent of respondents were mothers, which the EYA said suggests childcare issues continue to adversely affect the female workforce.
The Early Years Alliance says government data shows the number of settings on the early years register has fallen drastically in the past year, with a net loss of more than 2,500 settings, equivalent to 4.5% of the overall sector.
The survey shows parents who previously attended a childcare setting that had permanently closed (7%) often found it challenging to secure an alternative, with just one in three (29%) saying it was easy to find a new setting.
A recent Freedom of Information request by the EYA showed that Department for Education officials had estimated the cost of ‘fully funding’ an early years place would reach £7.49 in 2020/21 – £2.60 more than the £4.89 rate paid to settings for three and four year olds who are eligible for the 30 hours a week ‘free’ childcare during term time.
Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive, said: “With budgets becoming ever tighter in the face of rising costs and stagnant funding, many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders have been forced to make tough decisions about the days, hours, and flexibility they can offer. As our survey shows, this in turn is forcing parents to make their own difficult choices about their working lives. For settings and families in more deprived areas, these challenges are even more acute.
We have seen the government documents: ministers are fully aware that early years underfunding is driving up childcare costs – and that this is keeping parents, and especially mothers out of the workplace – and yet they continue to insist that all is fine and refuse to even review what is clearly a broken system.
We urge the government to seize the opportunity of the spending review this autumn to finally show it has the interests of children and families at heart, something it is yet to demonstrate in any meaningful way.”