Parents say the government hasn’t given enough support on childcare post-lockdown as a new survey highlights the toll on their work-life and mental health.
Half of parents of young children say the government has not done enough to support access to childcare since the easing of lockdown, a survey by early years organisation the Early Years Alliance has found.
According to the survey, 49% of parents feel that the government hasn’t done enough to support them 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.
More than a quarter (27%) said that difficulties accessing childcare since the easing of lockdown has had a negative impact on their mental health, rising to more than a third (36%) of parents living in the most deprived local authorities areas.
One in 10 (10%) have not been able to access formal childcare at all since the easing of lockdown despite wanting to do so.
According to Department for Education (DfE) statistics, there are more than two million families in England with children aged under five, 87% of which use some form of formal childcare.
All nurseries, pre-schools and childminders in England have been allowed to open to all children since June 1. However, a lack of adequate financial support from government alongside concerns about reopening safely has meant that around a third of providers were yet to reopen ahead of the summer holidays, according to DfE figures.
In addition, many of those settings that have reopened have been forced to restrict sessions or reduce their opening hours. The survey found that, of those parents who were accessing formal childcare before lockdown, four in 10 (38%) are now taking up fewer 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.
Roberta Mitchell, a mother of a two-year-old and a four-year-old, based in Kettering, said: ‘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.’
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.
Recent data from independent early years analysts Ceeda found that just 13% of nurseries and pre-schools in England, and 33% of childminders still expect to be operating at a profit by January 2021.
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.’
Cllr Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said the government needs to use the forthcoming Spending Review to properly resource all early years settings.
‘Childcare providers have been a vital part of the nation’s response to COVID-19 and councils worked closely with them to ensure that vulnerable children and critical workers had the childcare they needed during lockdown.
‘As we enter the next phases of the pandemic, it is vital that all parents have access to the good quality childcare they need to enable them to return to work, while ensuring that children have the support they need to develop school readiness.
‘However, early years and childcare providers have not had access to the same funding as schools to stay open. A loss of income from parent fees means that a quarter of providers now fear closure, rising to a third in more deprived areas.
‘It is essential that we have enough childcare places to support families to ensure the country can recover from COVID-19, both economically and socially. The government must therefore provide additional funding at a national level to protect childcare providers.’
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