Government report on childcare shows fall in use of childcare for school-aged children and a drop in the use of formal childcare in the most deprived areas of England.
Children living in the most deprived areas are least likely to receive formal childcare, according to a Department for Education report and a significant drop in parents accessing afterschool childcare.
The Childcare and early years survey of parents in England 2018 report shows 62% of children living in the least deprived areas received formal childcare this year, compared to 44% of children living in the most deprived areas.
It also shows a fall generally in the use of formal childcare as a result mainly of a drop in care used for school-aged children. Formal childcare was used by 62% of families, down from 66% in 2017. Use of after-school clubs and activities for school-age children fell from 41% in 2017 to 35% in 2018. Single parents of school-aged children were significantly less likely to use formal childcare as were parents in the most deprived areas.
Among school-age children in lone parent families, the use of after-school clubs fell from 37% in 2017 to 26% in 2018. While the use of after-school clubs also fell among school-age children in couple families, this fall was not statistically significant. Use of after-school clubs fell among school-age children living in the most deprived areas of the country – down from 29% in 2017 to 21% in 2018. The use of after-school clubs also fell for school-age children living in relatively less deprived areas of the country, but these falls were not statistically significant.
The report also looked at holiday childcare. It found just under two in five (38%) families with school-age children used childcare during school holidays, a fall from the proportion recorded in 2017 (44%). This fall was primarily due to a fall in the proportion of families using grandparents in holiday periods. One in five (21%) families used formal childcare during school holidays, similar to 2017.
With regard to government policies on childcare, the report found good awareness for some preschool policies, with greater awareness among wealthier parents, but poor awareness of tax-free childcare.
Nine in 10 (90%) parents with a child aged 0 to 4 were aware of the 15 hours free childcare offer available to all parents of three and four year olds. Parents in families with higher annual incomes were more likely to be aware of the offer.
Among parents with a two year old, just over four in five (83%) were aware that some two year olds living in deprived areas are eligible for some free hours of childcare each week.
The DfE figures from January 2018 show 95% of four year olds, 92% of three year olds and 72% of eligible two year olds benefitted from funded childcare or early education.
Among parents with a child aged 0 to 4, almost four in five (78%) were aware of the 30 hours free childcare offer for eligible working parents. Awareness was higher among parents in couple families (80%, compared to 72% among lone parents), and among those with higher family annual incomes (89% of those earning £45,000 or more per year, compared to 68% of those earning under £10,000).
Parents who had taken up the 30 hours had generally had a positive experience. A third (34%) thought they would be working fewer hours if the 30-hour offer was not available, with this belief more common among parents in lower- and middle-income families.
Just over a quarter (27%) of parents with a child aged under 12 were aware of the Tax-Free Childcare scheme, a slight rise in awareness since the 2017 survey (21%). Dual-working couple families were most likely to be aware of the scheme (33%), followed by working lone parent families (24%). Non-working lone parents were least likely to be aware (17%). For many of the poorest working parents, tax-free childcare did not apply as they were on working tax credits.
Two in five (41%) parents rated the affordability of local childcare as very or fairly good, while 30% rated it as very or fairly poor. This was similar to 2017. The poorest were most likely to have difficulties covering childcare costs.
The report noted that 70% of mothers with children aged 0-14 were in work in 2018, a rise from 68% in 2017. Over two in five (44%) working mothers said that having reliable childcare helped them to go out to work. Among mothers who had entered the workforce in the previous two years, the most common reason for this move, reported by 21%, was finding a job that enabled them to combine work and childcare.
The picture was mixed over part-time work and increasing hours. Among mothers working part-time, almost a third (30%) said they would increase their hours if there were no barriers to doing so, but over half (55%) said they would not change their working hours.