Memorandum submitted by Daycare Trust
1.1 Daycare Trust is the national childcare
charity, campaigning for quality affordable childcare for all
children aged 0-14 and raising the voices of children, parents
and carers. We advise parents and carers, providers, employers,
trade unions and policy makers on childcare issues.
1.2 Daycare Trust welcomes the Government's
commitment to ending child poverty. We are delighted to be able
to submit evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee Inquiry
into Child Poverty in the UK and were particularly please to also
be able to make a significant contribution to the recent Work
and Pensions Select Committee Inquiry into Childcare.
1.3 The Daycare Trust Childcare Challenge
project is working with low income families in Cornwall, the London
Borough of Greenwich, Middlesbrough and Sefton who live outside
of the 20% most disadvantaged areas in the country, as determined
by the Index of Multiple Deprivation. During the course of the
project so far over 350 parents and children, many who live in
pockets of disadvantaged in what are otherwise affluent areas
or who live in areas that rate between 20 and 30% on the Index
of Multiple Deprivation Index, have been interviewed. Their experiences,
views and opinions illustrate the barriers and difficulties that
they face finding childcare that meets their needs and that they
can afford. This project shows how without childcare, many of
their lives, hopes and dreams of a better future for them and
their children remain on hold.
2.1 The Government's commitment to ending
child poverty by 2020 is perhaps its most important. Tackling
child poverty requires access to excellent public services for
children and young people, their families and the wider community.
The Government's first ever National Childcare Strategy launched
in May 1998 is an integral part of the package of government policies
tackling child poverty and social exclusion.
2.2 To date, this has included;
Early Excellence Centres,
promoting good practice in integrated provision of childcare and
education for children and their parents.
Sure Start, aiming to improve
the health and well being of families and children before birth
to four, so children are ready to flourish when they go to school.
Sure Start Plus, aims to reduce
the risk of long-term social exclusion and poverty resulting from
Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiatives,
launched in 2001, Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiatives aim to provide
new childcare services to children and families in the most disadvantaged
Children's Centres, initially
based in the 20% most disadvantaged areas Children's Centres are
set include integrated services consisting of full-day nursery
care, out of school care, sessional early education and some family
2.3 Childcare is an integral component of
the package of government policies tackling poverty and social
exclusion, both directly and indirectly. It is essential to the
policies designed to get parents back into paid employment and,
by creating more childcare places together with the childcare
tax credit, supporting them once they are back.
2.4 Since 1997, there has been a significant
increase in the level of provision of care for pre-school children
as well as after school and holiday provision for older children.
2.5 Pre-school education has also expanded
and by September 2004 all three and four year old children will
have access to a free part-time nursery education place. In contrast
to the expansion of universal nursery education, childcare has
seen a mix of market led and area based initiatives aimed at increasing
the level of daycare provision.
2.6 In 1997, there was one registered childcare
place for every nine children under eight years of age. By 2001
this had dropped to a ratio of one in seven. Recent statistics
released by Ofsted suggest that as of 31 March 2003, there are
registered childcare places for one in five children under the
age of eight. However these figures mask considerable variations
in levels and types of provision. Not only are different types
of provision growing at different rates but some, most notably
childminders, are declining.
The private sector now provides most
of the pre-school places in day nurseries;
There are large regional variations
in levels and patterns of provision. Some of these reflect different
traditions which arise from different experiences of, opportunities
for and attitudes towards women's employment going back decades;
Regions with low levels of one kind
of provision do not necessarily have higher levels of another
form of provision. There are also significant differences within
regions. The increase in numbers of childcare places has been
diverse and uneven. The distribution of nursery education places
for three and four year olds does not correlate either positively
or negatively with levels of daycare provision.
3.1. Expansion in childcare provision has
been targeted on those families living in concentrated areas of
disadvantage. These areas have been defined using a set of indicators
contained in the Index of Deprivation. They include measures of
poor health, housing, lack of security and dereliction, poor education,
low income and unemployment.
3.2 In recognition of the limitations of
relying on the private market to provide childcare places where
they are needed, but where need cannot be translated into effective
demand because parents are too poor, the Government has intervened
to create new childcare places.
The pre budget report in November 2001 stated:
"We will support the expansion in childcare
provision focusing on the most deprived areas where the childcare
market faces barriers to development. This will be achieved by
concentrating new funds on helping childcare providersin
both the private and voluntary sectorsto set up in these
3.3 The Neighbourhood Childcare Initiative
is scheduled to 45,000 new daycare places in up to 900 Neighbourhood
Nurseries together with 25,000 new childminder places. Lone parents
living in the most disadvantaged areas will get a childcare place
once they move into employment. This will support the Government's
target to get 70% of lone parents back in work by 2010.
3.4 The Sure Start programme is at
the core of the policies aimed at children under the age of four
and their families "to ensure that every child arrives at
school healthy and ready to learn". All Sure Start
programmes involve working with parents as well as with their
children. By March 2004, there will be 500 programmes reaching
400,000 children under four years. This accounts for approximately
a third of those in poverty. Additionally, some Sure Start
programmes have included Sure Start Plus programmes to
provide support for pregnant teenagers and teenage parents. There
have also been a round of mini Sure Start programmes in
smaller areas of deprivation that are located mainly in small
towns and sparse rural areas.
"I understand that there is a Sure Start
in Greenwich . . . the thing is, Sure Start has a boundary . .
. you have to live in a certain area . . . and if you don't, you're
not included." Parent, Childcare Challenge Project, London
Borough of Greenwich.
4.1 It is widely acknowledged that childcare
must play a crucial role in any welfare reform programme. The
evidence is clear.
Children with positive early years'
experiences are less likely to fail in school and consequently
have enhanced employment opportunities and economic security for
the rest of their lives;
Parents who return to the labour
market with recognised skills andqualifications, as well as more
confidence, are able to lift and keepthemselves and their families,
out of poverty.
4.2 Presently, government "welfare
to work" and anti-poverty strategies risk failing due to
the lack of quality, affordable childcare needed to underpin and
ensure the success of such ambitious programmes.
4.3 Access to childcare for parents living
in poverty remains patchy and uncertain. The vast amount of these
families get no help at all. Access to childcare depends on:
4.4 Area-based initiatives, such as the
Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiative and Sure Start, have
not reached many children in poor workless families because of
the dispersed nature of poverty. Put simply, many children in
poor households do not live in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods
where these area-based initiatives are concentrated.
"This might be a posh area but there's still
people in poverty living here." Parent, Childcare Challenge
4.5 In contrast to this targeted approach,
universal part-time pre-school education continues to be developed
as a universal service funded out of general taxation. All children
aged four are now guaranteed a part-time place and by September
2004, all three year-olds will also be guaranteed a part-time
nursery education place. This could amount to five two and a half
hour sessions a week during term time but this approach also presents
problems for families wishing to move from welfare to work.
"I have a four year old and he goes to nursery
three mornings a week, but it's only for two and a half hours
and by the time I've got him there and come home, it's almost
time to pick him up again. How does the Government expected me
to work?" Parent, Childcare Challenge Project, Cornwall.
4.6 Parents living in poverty also found
childcare very expensive. For many of them, the costs of childcare
were well out of their reach:
Nationally, the typical cost of a
nursery place for a child under two is £128, more than £6,650
In some parts of the country, particularly
London and the south east, the cost of a nursery place is much
highertypically £168 a week in inner London, or over
£8,730 a year, with some parents paying much more.
"How can I afford to pay for childcare
for four children? Financially it's not possible to go back to
work." Parent, Childcare Challenge Project, Sefton.
4.7 Access is also dependent on a family's
ability to pay for childcare services. Parents who have low or
no income will never earn enough to pay the full market price
for childcare. The current childcare element of the Working Tax
Credit is limited in the help that it can offer-at best, parents
are still required to pay at least 30% towards their childcare
costs, but for most families this amount is still beyond their
"They should reduce their charges, especially
for people on low income or on income support . . . I don't mind
paying, but it needs to be affordable." Parent, Childcare
Challenge Project, London Borough of Greenwich.
"You have to pay a crazy amount of money
for childcare." Parent, Childcare Challenge Project,
4.8 The childcare element of the Working
Tax Credit is only available to those in employment. Parents who
work 16 hours a week or more could be eligible to claim up to
70% of childcare costs to a maximum of £135 (£94.50)
per week for one child and £200 (£140) for two or more
4.9 Despite government attempts to simplify
the tax credits system and make the process more transparent,
parents continue to find getting help difficult.
"They need to make it so that all walks
of life can understand it . . . they need to simplify it for everyday
people . . . .not everyone's a "brain box" . . . I'm
not that intellectual when it comes to reading or problem solving."
Parent Childcare Challenge Project, London Borough of Greenwich.
4.10 Parents also expressed a sense of frustration
at the recent transition from Working Families Tax Credit to the
new integrated Child and Working Tax Credit systems.
"But they keep charging it don't they? This
tax thing child tax . . . you can't keep up with it . . . if you
phone up, I mean I had trouble trying to phone up, to get information
. . . to get the right amount of money . . . I just couldn't get
through." Parent, Childcare Challenge Project, Middlesborough.
4.11 For many parents facing poverty, the
support that the childcare element of the working tax credit was
able to provide, was simply not enough to meet their childcare
"With the tax credit you get about £100
for one and a 100 and something for two . . . but that's the ceiling
and . . . and I've got four . . . so you've only allowed to get
100 and something for four children. It's just not realistic."
Parent, Childcare Challenge Project, Sefton.
4.12 When faced with tough decisions and
financial implications as to whether it is economically worth
going back to work, parents can rarely see how it will stack up
"You've got to think about your family .
. . because what's the point in going back to work when you're
paying out more for childcare than what you're actually earning
. . . especially when you could be doing the childcare."
Parent Childcare Challenge Project, Cornwall.
"If you're a single parent and you have
got to pay childcare, you're better off being unemployed because
you have got more money in your pocket than if you were to go
back to work . . . because if you go back to work you then have
to start paying council tax as well as a childminder and then
you have to get to work and that's a quid on the bus each way,
so £20 a week . . . and you're not seeing much of your children
. . . as it stands you are better off claiming social security".
Parent, Childcare Challenge Project, London Borough of Greenwich.
"I've worked all week, I've slaved my guts
out and I'm left with fifty quid or something after you've paid
them (the childcare), paid your rent and done this, done that
. . . you've got nothing left and you don't know where you are
. . . but you did when you were on benefits." Parent, Childcare
Challenge Project, Middlesborough.
4.13 Despite the significant costs involved
in paying for childcare, parents still believe that there are
significant benefits for their children to have childcare.
"She does sticking and painting at nursery..
she needs a bit more that I can actually give her." Parent
Childcare Challenge Project, Sefton.
The children get to play with other children
and it helps them bond with other people. I mean Alden he was
a right little monster before he started the creche, Now he is
a lot calmer and he's not as spiteful as he was. He's learning
right from wrong. I'm sometimes sad that I'm on my own while he's
at creche . . . but it's nice for him". Parent, Childcare
Challenge Project, Cornwall,
"I've seen a major change in himhe's
now a child who knows how to talk to other children and interact
with other adults." Parent, Childcare Challenge Project,
4.14 There can be no hiding the immense
childcare challenge that this represents or the resources it requires.
If child poverty is to be eliminated in the next 20 years, then
childcare, early years education and family support services must
be integratedand available on a universal basis, at a price that
fits parents' pockets.
4.15 Daycare Trust endorses the recent recommendations
made by the Work ard Pensions select committee in relation to
child poverty and would urge the roll out of Children's Centres
beyond the planned 20% most disadvantaged wards to the 30% most
disadvantaged wards by 2006 and a long-term commitment from Government
to establishing Children's Centres in all areas.
4.16 Childcare for all children and families
must rapidly become a cornerstone of society. The success of government
`welfare to work' and anti-poverty strategies is jeopardised by
the lack of quality, affordable childcare that is needed to support
and underpin such ambitious programmes.