In a recent Family and Childcare Trust survey on holiday childcare schemes, their costs and availability, several areas of insufficiency were highlighted. For those who have to sort childcare during the holidays, the results are not necessarily groundbreaking. Even still, this report is a stark reminder that childcare continues to be a strain, not only on families balancing the childcare juggling act, but also on the businesses that rely on employees to manage these arrangements efficiently.
In short, the cost of holiday childcare is on the rise, there aren’t sufficient childcare options in many areas, and there are gaps for disabled childcare provision as well as overall provision for 12-14-year-old children. The Family and Childcare Trust survey sets out the research very clearly and highlights government action areas across the UK.
Here are the key areas of the survey:
Rising Childcare Costs Holiday childcare costs vary across local areas, with the south of England bearing the highest cost burden. “The majority of holiday childcare providers are private businesses who are able to set their own prices according to local market conditions” (Holiday Childcare Survey 2018). Overall, parents in Britain now pay an average of £133 per week for full time holiday childcare.
As a result of varying costs around holiday childcare provision, employers can assist their employees in providing childcare vouchers to support those increasing childcare costs.
Childcare vouchers are still available and employers who use the scheme are encouraged to sign up new employees as soon as possible. It’s worth remembering the government deadline of the 4th October 2018 for childcare vouchers is fast approaching. Employees are still able to sign up for the scheme until this date. Once signed up, employees can keep getting vouchers as long as: 1. they stay with the same employer, 2. The employer continues to run the scheme and 3. that employees do not take an unpaid career break of longer than a year.
Insufficient Holiday Childcare Provision The survey highlighted growing concern that local authorities are not providing sufficient childcare options and are failing to audit “childcare sufficiency” annually. This ranges between the nations of Britain. “Only 33 per cent of English local authorities report having enough holiday childcare provision in all of their local areas for children between the ages of four and seven.” This percentage drops as the age of the children increases and is consistently insufficient across England, Scotland and Wales.
Although it is often difficult for local authorities to determine how much holiday childcare is available, many have shown reduced shortages since last year in England, Scotland and Wales.
Insufficient Provision for Inset Days Interestingly the survey also revealed that most summer holidays are sufficiently covered, but others, such as teacher inset days, are often not covered at all – forcing many parents to take a day of leave to care for their children.
Local authorities lack the ability to request that schools provide wrap around and holiday childcare in the instance of school closure due to inset days. The Family and Childcare Trust suggest giving the “right to request” - which is designed to encourage schools to make the most of their facilities – a statutory footing so schools would be “obliged to consider requests that were made rather than simply encouraging them to do so”.
Employer Good Practice Perhaps a greater cohesion between local authorities and schools would improve the holiday childcare insufficiencies that so many working families face. As an employer, signposting to useful information or holding a session would be invaluable for employees.
Holding an information session and speaking to employees about any flexible work options, childcare voucher schemes and important dates well in advance would also help with planning and a smooth holiday transition.
The campaign to #SaveChildcareVouchers was launched in May 2018 ahead of the planned closure to the Childcare Voucher scheme on 4th October 2018. It urges parents, employers, and childcare providers to lobby their MP to urge the government to keep the scheme open.