A new survey has revealed half of parents of under-fives don’t think the government has done enough to support parents to access the childcare they need during the pandemic.
The survey took responses from just over 2000 parents of children aged under five in England found:
Key stats include:
- 49% of respondents said that the government hasn’t done enough to support parents to access the childcare they need during the pandemic
- A third (34%) say that difficulties accessing childcare since the easing of lockdown has had a negative impact on their work life, rising to nearly half (48%) of parents living in the most deprived local authority areas.
- Over a quarter (27%) said that difficulties accessing childcare since the easing of lockdown has had a negative impact on their mental health, rising to over a third (36%) of parents living in the most deprived local authorities areas.
- 1 in 10 (10%) have not been able to access formal childcare at all since the easing of lockdown despite wanting to do so.
Furthermore, the Department of Education statistics point to more than two million families in England with children aged under five, 87% of which use some form of formal childcare.
Since 1 June all nurseries, pre-schools and childminders have been allowed to open to all children. Unfortunately, a significant lack of financial support, coupled with concerns about reopening safely have meant that around a third of providers were yet to reopen ahead of the summer holidays.
Calls for funding have been raised numerous times before the pandemic hit. Now with a continued lack of funding, the sector is at great risk of crippling, leaving parents with fewer options which then means their work schedule will be disrupted. The government needs to seriously step and recognise that early years is a vital part of our infrastructure.
The problems don’t stop with the settings that couldn’t reopen. Many that have reopened have had to adapt their opertions and in some cases restrict sessions and reduce their opening hours.
The Alliance survey found that of those parents who were accessing formal childcare before lockdown, four in 10 (38%) are now taking up less hours per week, with more than half (56%) saying that this is because their childcare provider hasn’t been able to offer as many hours.
The Early Years Alliance is calling on the government to provide an emergency rescue package for the childcare sector in England – alongside a longer-term sustained increase in general funding levels – at the upcoming Spending Review to ensure that early years providers are able to deliver high-quality, affordable and accessible care and education to their families both now and in the long-term.
Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said:
‘It is clear that much more needs to be done to ensure that the parents of young children are able to access the childcare they need.
‘For this to happen, the government simply must provide greater financial support to the early years sector so that nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are able to keep their doors opens and provide the care and education that families rely on.
‘The Prime Minister recently talked about ‘the spiralling economic costs of parents and carers unable to work without the school or wraparound childcare they depend on’, but with around two million families with children under five using formal childcare, the government simply cannot afford to ignore the worsening crisis that the early years sector is facing any longer.
‘It’s clear from our survey that many parents, and particularly those living in more disadvantaged areas, are already feeling the strain of reduced access to childcare – both in terms of work pressures and the impact on their mental health. With a quarter of providers fearing closure by next year, this situation is only going to get worse unless the government takes urgent action.
‘As such, we urge the Chancellor to use the upcoming Spending Review as an opportunity to commit to the investment that the early years needs to survive the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. The alternative is a sector that may never recover from the impact of the pandemic, and hundreds of thousands of parents left without the support they need at the time they need it most.’
Quotes from Parents
‘My son will not be getting his place back at nursery until September due to waiting lists and staff numbers. In all honesty, if it wasn’t for the understanding of my company, along with their flexible working policies which has allowed for me to spend time teaching my son, I may have needed to stop working which would have had a huge impact on my family. It feels as if nurseries have been left to fend for themselves and were required to source information for themselves about safety measures, all while being threatened with funding cuts. The government’s strategy clearly didn’t consider early years, the safety of under fives or the working parents who they’re relying on to build back our economy.’
Lauren Balasco, mother of a two-year-old and marketing manager, Bristo
‘People have been expected to go back to work without the required care in place or facing reduced hours. I had to ask my work to leave me on furlough as I wasn’t able to work my required hours with our pre-school only opening part-time. I have since been made redundant and I feel that my inability to return to work could have contributed to this.’
Roberta Mitchell, mother of a two-year-old and a four-year-old, based in Kettering.
‘My husband and I work full-time and have two children: one in school and the other is two-years-old. Access to good childcare is essential and to see how childcare settings were placed in often untenable situations by the government’s lack of clarity around an essential service was concerning.
‘I find it personally upsetting to see the ramifications for our childcare providers and professionally unnerving not to know if the childcare we rely on will be supported to survive.’
Ali Bailey, mother of a two-year-old and a seven-year-old, Bath.
‘We are two parents working from home with a five-year-old on summer holidays and a three-year-old in nursery just two days a week. We have no other childcare options so our sons are basically doing stuff on their own until we have a break. We start work at 6am, spend time with our sons in the afternoon, then work until 11-12pm.’
Victor Gazis, father of a three-year-old and a five-year-old, Exete
‘Our children attend nursery two days a week and the other two days I work we used to be able to utilise family, as this option has now been taken away from us due to social distancing between households and in Greater Manchester, not being able to mix households.
‘We are also currently unable to access further nursery time for our children due to lack of places at our current nursery, and the financial impact it would have on our family on having two children in nearly full-time childcare. If this situation continues we may have to make a decision to take a massive financial hit on our family either by one of us leaving employment for the children, or paying over double for childcare.’
Melissa Crossley, mother of a one-year-old and a four-year-old, Manchester