Wealthier more likely to access formal childcare

Childcare usage fell between 2019 and 2021, mainly due to Covid, but the statistics show lower income families are much less likely to use childcare.

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Disadvantaged families are significantly less likely to use formal childcare, according to a Department for Education survey on childcare use during the pandemic.

The study, part of the Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents series for the Department for Education, found that in 2021 56% of children living in the least deprived areas received formal childcare, compared to 35% of children living in the most deprived areas and 57% of children in families earning £45,000 or more received formal childcare, compared to 30% of those in families earning under £10,000.

The report shows the number of parents using childcare declined between 2018 and 2021,  while 40% of parents of pre-school children said they wanted more affordable childcare.

The study is based on a survey of parents of children up to the age of 14, whether in work or not. It found 56% of children under 14 used childcare in 2021, down from 65% in 2018.  Children under four were the most likely to use childcare, but their numbers were also down from 76% in 2019 to 68% in 2021.

The proportion of working mothers of 0-14-year-olds who said that having reliable childcare helps them go to work was unchanged at 42% and the proportion of working mothers of 0-4-year-olds who said that having reliable childcare helping them go to work fell from 69% in 2019 to 64% in 2021.

The report says Covid may be the cause of the declines in childcare uptake. It says only 10% of parents who had not used any childcare in the past year said it was because they could not afford childcare, although many may have been furloughed or working from home amid childcare disruption and concerns about children catching Covid. The numbers relating to affordability are very low compared to other surveys which focus more on working parents rather than all parents. These include those by Pregnant Then Screwed while workingmums.co.uk’s latest survey shows a big issue with childcare availability.

Working mothers reported that factors which helped them go out to work included having children at school (44%, up from 40% in 2018) and having reliable childcare (42%, in line with 44% in 2018). However, among those working part time, just over half (51%) said that, even if there were no barriers to doing so, they would not increase their working hours. This is in line with 2018 where 55% said this.

The survey also showed around seven in ten (71%) pre-school children who received childcare (formal or informal) did so for economic reasons (for instance, to enable their parents to work, to look for work, or to study).

Asked what changes  they would like to see to local childcare provision, parents were most likely to say more affordable childcare (31%, a rise from 26% in 2018), more childcare available during the school holidays (20%, in line with 19% in 2018), more flexibility about when childcare is available (14%, a rise from 12% in 2018), longer opening hours (14%, in line with 15% in 2018) and more information about what’s available (14%, unchanged from 2018).  A higher percentage of families who only had pre-school children, compared to those who only had school-age children, cited more affordable childcare (40% compared to 26%) and more flexibility about when childcare is available (17% compared to 13%).



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