What’s the problem finding childcare?
The issues raised within the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) report “The future of Childcare in London” are comprehensive but have a fundamental element missing, particularly for parents – easy access to information.
A lack of accessible ‘trusted’ information means that parents are unaware of the childcare types, cost and times that are available, or the implications of their choices and hence unable to make an informed decision or take advantage of ‘free entitlement hours’ and Tax Free Childcare.
To make informed choices, parents need to build up a picture of the available options and be able to compare the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Well-respected bodies such as Coram Family & Childcare, Citizens Advice and IPPR continue to highlight parents inability to gain childcare, despite Government’s awareness of the impact this has on children’s school readiness and social outcomes later in their lives.
“Throughout the country, parents are currently unable to search and find cross-border information on childcare...“
Local authorities have a duty under The Childcare Act 2016 for the provision of this type of information to parents, to assist them to find childcare and to manage the childcare service market.
However, current information management systems do not provide local authorities the ability to efficiently be the key source of accurate, timely information for parents (0-14yrs / 17yrs for SEND), necessary to overcome any issue of trust (by the most vulnerable parents).
In addition, poor information is also known to limit the effectiveness of a competitive market and thus choice in UK childcare.
Throughout the country, parents are currently unable to search and find cross-border information on childcare, despite demographics often resulting in parents crossing two or three Borough boundaries whilst travelling to work – a route on which they may want to search for childcare for convenience, quality and/or to increase availability. This means parents may have to review several local authority websites, make numerous phone calls, understand what they are asking for and more – all of which further complicates childcare for parents. In addition, poor information is also known to limit the effectiveness of a competitive market and thus childcare choice in the UK.
The impact for families who are disadvantaged by health, employment, education or living standards is even greater and it is reported that these families tend to have access to a lower quality of childcare.
We need to unlock the complexities of childcare for parents through modern digital tools that offer them the type and quality of information necessary to address their concerns and that efficiently promotes the flexibility and true availability of the local childcare market.
This will increase parental confidence and support local economic growth. At the same time it will enable local authorities to better manage their local childcare market and ensure there is equitable availability for all parents.
Author: Carole Ward
Founder and Chief Policy Officer, Famiio. With a wealth of experience within the public sector, Carole was previously Chair of the National Association for Family Information Services (NAFIS), working alongside the Department for Education on national childcare data projects, and a former frontline local authority manager.
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