Limited or Lack of Local School Age Childcare

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This online survey was distributed widely through emails and social media, via school age childcare services, parent organisations and general contacts in childcare. It was designed to be easily completed in a few minutes. The survey was conducted from 23rd February to 31st March 2023 and was hosted on Data is based on 344 responses overall.

The survey addressed the issue of whether parents and carers have access to sufficient school age childcare to meet their needs, and to investigate the impact on their families where they have insufficient or no access to school age childcare.

This report demonstrates that for parents and carers, especially those in identified priority groups such as parents of children with additional support needs and lone parents, but across the whole socio-economic spectrum, the impact of not accessing sufficient school age childcare is currently preventing many from realising their full potential to work, to contribute to the economy, and to avoid being plunged into poverty.

Key Findings
  • Nearly half of parents reported insufficient or no access to school age childcare, and the impact on them is profound.
  • Nearly two thirds are experiencing more stress,
  • More than half of them are reducing working hours.
  • More than a third report reduction in household income as a result of this.
  • Under half rely on friends or relatives to help.
  • For those that do, more than a third of them say this causes stress for their relatives and friends and impacts negatively on their relationships.
  • Lone parents are particularly impacted.
  • Parents and carers of children with disabilities and additional support needs have the least access to suitable childcare.
  • With over one hundred additional comments, the constant juggling, stress, impact on child and family wellbeing and halting of professional careers, alongside guilt, frustration and financial problems are all made clear.
  • For those with sufficient access to school age childcare, some offered additional comments to say that without this in place, they would be “plunged into poverty”.
  • Others mentioned that they use friends and family as they could not afford to pay for childcare.
  • Many respondents knew about help with childcare costs via tax credits or tax free childcare but nearly a quarter of all respondents did not know about both.

Some additional comments on stress and impact of lack of access, first, from lone parents:

“Lack of childcare is my biggest obstacle in getting back to work and training for better job opportunities. Let alone (the) financial impact has on me as a single mum it also has a tremendous impact on my mental health leaving me feeling helpless.”

“I’ve been on the after-school club waiting list since May 2021. I have to squeeze my working hours in during the school day, I have a couple of left over hours I have to add on in the evenings. When I’m required to be into the office this eats into my work time which increases the add on time I have to work in the evenings. It is extremely frustrating and stressful and as a lone parent I have no time for myself. I am exhausted, underpaid and under supported.”

“I have had to work from home rather than be in office to ensure I am available to collect my children from school. This also interrupts my working pattern/meetings as I have to keep free time around school pick up.”

But even where there are two parents, it can still be a struggle:

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any family or friends to assist us with childcare, we have to unfortunately take it all upon ourselves during school holidays and industrial action days and not able to work and earn income.”

“Strain on our relationship due to having to juggle work and childcare.”

For parents and carers of children with additional support needs there is even less access, or even higher dependency:

“There is a serious lack of before and after (school) childcare for children with disabilities. I have 2 autistic children and there is nowhere suitable for them to attend. This is a huge issue that needs to be addressed.”

“My child has a complex disability. The maximum holiday support available to us is 4 x 4 days a year (9 until 3pm). Her only special school with an after school. Club and there's a huge waiting list. There is a severe lack of private childcare. The inequality with mainstream provision is discriminatory to say the least.”

“The only way I can get work done is to change my working hours so that I can work while the child sleeps as much as possible. This means very early rises (5am or earlier) and weekend work. Over long periods of time, this is unsustainable due to wellbeing deteriorating and poor health. Because our son has special needs, this has further complications for the sort of childcare that would be suitable for him. After-school clubs often don't work for him because of the sensorial difficulties he has. Whilst we have access to funds to help with his care, these are extremely limited and inadequate to cover the real cost of looking after him outside of school hours.”

To the benefits for the children and families who do access school age childcare:

“My son has additional support needs. By accessing after school club, he is able to play with his friends in the local community”

“If my son couldn't get a place at my out of school care I would have to give my job up due to my son having autism, it's very difficult to find childcare or to get family and friends to watch my son as he is very challenging.”

Although those who said they currently had enough school age childcare, were not asked to complete the remaining questions, some did provide further comments which are also enlightening.

Without school age childcare “Children and I would be pushed into poverty.” (lone parent, three children)

“If our OOSC and holiday club couldn't run I would have to significantly cut my working hours or even leave my job as an NHS Consultant.”

As the detailed results show many parents and carers are losing family income, employment and educational opportunities which helps keep families out of poverty.

Families cannot pull themselves out of poverty without there being an infrastructure of reliable, affordable and accessible childcare, especially school age childcare as so many parents must cut their hours, or indeed leave their jobs, as there is not enough school age childcare available, or it is not affordable, even with help with childcare costs.

Irene Audain MBE June 2023

last updated: 14/06/2023