Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Daycare Trust (CP 35)


  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 teenage pregnancy.

    —  Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiatives, launched in 2001, Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiatives aim to provide new childcare services to children and families in the most disadvantaged areas.

    —  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 support services.

  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 providers—in both the private and voluntary sectors—to set up in these areas."

  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:

    —  where families live;

    —  their income;

    —  employment status.

  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 Project, Sefton.

  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 a year;

    —  In some parts of the country, particularly London and the south east, the cost of a nursery place is much higher—typically £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 means.

    "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, Middlesborough.

  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 children.

  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 costs.

    "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 financially.

    "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 him—he's now a child who knows how to talk to other children and interact with other adults." Parent, Childcare Challenge Project, Sefton.

  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.

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2004
Prepared 22 January 2004