Parents back Government’s childcare plans
An overwhelming majority of parents of young children are in favour of the government’s proposal to extend free childcare, according to research carried out by Parentkind. Results show that the policy may also succeed in encouraging at least one parent in the household to increase their working hours.
The poll asked parents their intentions if the proposed arrangements were available today. It found that:
- 94% of parents of children aged 1–2 anticipate they would take up the offer of 15 hours of free childcare (available from September 2024)
- 87% of parents of children aged 2 anticipate they would take up the offer of 15 hours of free childcare (available from April 2024)
- 89% of parents of children under 5 anticipate they would take up the offer of 30 hours of free childcare (available from September 2025).
Seven in ten parents of children under 5 who are not attending school said the offer of 30 hours of free childcare meant that they had already, or would be likely to return to work, or pick up additional hours. A further 19% indicated that they would have returned to work anyway, and 7% said that at least one parent would look after the child until he or she started school. Results suggest that the policy is likely to have the incentivising effect on increasing numbers in the workplace that the government hopes for, but its success will crucially depend upon supply rising to meet the new level of demand for childcare places.
The survey also found that the current level of childcare provision in schools is good, with 87% of parents of primary children indicating some form of wraparound care before and/or after school hours. However, where childcare is available, only 39% regularly take it up. For 14%, the costs are prohibitive, 30% say they or their partner looks after them instead, 8% have other childcare arrangements and 5% say there are no places available. Primary schools offering before and after-hours childcare options at a reasonable cost would be popular with over two thirds (69%) of parents whose schools don’t currently have any childcare options, where 23% indicate they would be unlikely to take up the offer.
The measures, announced in Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt’s spring budget, are hoped to ease the cost of childcare for parents, freeing them up to return or seek work sooner than they might have otherwise. The Labour Party has said that it plans to completely overhaul the existing childcare system to make it work better for families and the economy.
When asking parents about their current childcare arrangements, 83% of those with pre-primary school children aged 3–4 but not in school who are eligible for free childcare hours currently use them. Almost three quarters (73%) also top this up with paid childcare and six in ten make use of informal, unpaid childcare. Almost all (93%) spend some time caring for their child directly, with 42% saying this is for over 35 hours per week. For parents of children typically not currently eligible for free childcare hours (under 3s), only just over a quarter (26%) of pre-primary school children eligible for free childcare hours currently use them. Almost three quarters (72%) also top this up with paid childcare and half (52%) make use of informal, unpaid childcare. Nearly nine in ten (89%) spend some time caring for their child directly.
Parentkind’s CEO Jason Elsom, said: “Our research clearly shows that parents of young children overwhelmingly welcome the government’s offer to extend free childcare provision. Increasing free childcare provision, especially during such a difficult economic climate, will offer many families a lifeline, providing the capacity for more parents to plug holes in increasingly stretched budgets by freeing parents to work additional hours or support their family in other ways. Families want a stable, happy and healthy family life, free from the worry of meeting childcare costs. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this policy as it is embedded to understand if there are broader long term challenges associated with children spending less time with their parents as a result of increased parental working patterns.”
About the Research
Parentkind childcare announcements poll (England only) methodology
The survey had 503 responses and was conducted online between 20th March and 3rd April 2023. Respondents were recruited from Parentkind’s Parent Panel, supplemented with a targeted online awareness campaign. Parents were only asked to answer questions that were relevant to their child’s age.