Parents struggle to balance work and childcare with poorest families hit hardest

·3-min read
A primary school child at work in a classroom (PA) (PA Wire)
A primary school child at work in a classroom (PA) (PA Wire)

More than one in four parents are struggling to balance work and childcare due to difficulties accessing early years provision, a poll suggests.

Families in disadvantaged areas are most likely to say they feel unsupported by government policies, according to a report by the Early Years Alliance (EYA).

More than a third (36%) of parents in England said that they were having difficulties accessing childcare, the survey suggests.

The poll, of more than 3,000 parents of under-fives, suggests one in six (17%) said this had negatively impacted their mental health.

It found 27% struggle to balance work and childcare due to difficulties accessing provision, compared with 33% of parents in deprived areas.

I'm on Universal Credit that requires I pay the childcare first and claim it back, which is ridiculous, because by the time I pay for food and rent there’s not even £150 left for the week

Parent

The survey suggests 71% do not think the Government is doing enough to support parents to access affordable childcare, while 80% in the most deprived areas feel this way.

One parent said: “I have episodes of stress and anxiety as I struggle to balance childcare needs with work and my marital relationship.

“Being less able to access informal care for prolonged periods has also put much more of a strain on us.”

Another parent said: “I’m on Universal Credit that requires I pay the childcare first and claim it back, which is ridiculous, because by the time I pay for food and rent there’s not even £150 left for the week.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of EYA, said: “This Government has repeatedly told the public it is on the side of working families, but cuts to crucial early care and education tell a different story.

“Early years settings deliver vital learning and development opportunities to young children, but also provide the quality childcare that parents rely on to work, bring in additional income and further their careers.

For settings and families in more deprived areas, these challenges are even more acute

Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance

“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.”

Mr Leitch called on the Government to “show it has the interests of children and families at heart” through the spending review this autumn.

Tulip Siddiq shadow minister for children and early years, said: “Working parents are under incredible daily pressure as a result of the Government’s failure to deliver affordable childcare for all.

“A decade of underfunding has driven up childcare costs and reduced availability, with nearly 3,000 providers lost since the start of this year alone.

“As so often is the case under the Conservatives it is the poorest families who are bearing the brunt of this failure.

“This Conservative Government has been all talk and no action when it comes to supporting parents with childcare.

“Ministers need to wake up to the huge difficulties facing families and put their needs first as we rebuild after the pandemic.”

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