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Call for councils to improve childcare provision for disadvantaged families

Call for councils to improve childcare provision for disadvantaged families.

Local authorities need to do more to ensure there is sufficient childcare provision for disadvantaged families in their area, a report by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has concluded.

A CAB study of early years provision in 16 council areas of England found that childcare options for low-income families are often narrow, hard to access and of poor quality.

Its survey of 400 childcare providers in the spring of 2014 showed that 75 per cent did not offer evening or weekend care, four in 10 had no availability and 46 per cent did not provide government-funded free childcare.

CAB said the findings meant that parents who work shifts and outside normal office hours – often the most poorly paid jobs – find it hardest to secure childcare as well as access the 15 hours of free weekly care offered through the government scheme.

CAB called for councils to work with Jobcentre Plus to monitor local childcare provision to make sure it matches the needs of the local employment market, and to ensure that there are sufficient flexible childcare places available to meet demand.

The Practicalities of Childcare report states: “While some local authorities monitor demand and sufficiency of weekends and evenings and flexible childcare in their local area, it’s not done in a consistent or reliable way. It is also often not done in the context of the local employment market but simply on numbers of enquiries to Family Information Services about a specific type of provision.

“Without consistent monitoring showing demand for childcare, parents who want to work will be unable to do so because of insufficient childcare.”

In addition, providers with the most flexibility in allowing parents to vary their childcare arrangements tended to be those with a poorer Ofsted rating the report found, a factor that CAB said could “limit children’s development and perpetuate a cycle of disadvantage for children from low-income families”.

However, providers said funding arrangements dictated that it was only economical to offer provision at times when demand was at its peak. To help childcare providers broaden the range of options available to disadvantaged families it said local authorities should offer them more business support.

This could include encouraging the adoption of best practice models on payment arrangements to ensure this is not a barrier to families using childcare, it adds.

 

Story Courtesy of CYP

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