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CAB - Working parents ‘held hostage’ by childcare needs

Advice queries about early years provision doubled in the last year.

The challenge of finding and maintaining affordable childcare is restricting parents’ working lives, reveals new research from Citizens Advice.

The research, to be published later this month and based on in-depth interviews with twenty working parents, finds that any changes to work or childcare arrangements can prove costly.  Impacts on working parents can include:

  • Having to work fewer hours, leading to decreased household income.

  • Damage to long term career goals as progression at work is held back.

  • Strain on relationships if friends or family are asked to step in and look after children at the last minute.

The number of people turning to Citizens Advice for help with early years provision has doubled to almost 1,200 in the last year.

The report also highlights the opportunities for employers to be more supportive of working parents who face an inflexible childcare market. Where possible allowing parents to adjust their working hours or days, or work some hours from home can help them to find and retain the childcare they need.

The new findings come as the Government this week put forward its new Childcare Bill, allowing working parents to access 30 hours of free childcare a week for three and four-year-olds.

Citizens Advice is warning that unless the scheme is properly funded and childcare providers are encouraged to offer more flexibility many working parents who need the scheme most will miss out.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“The lives of working parents are being held hostage by childcare. As the number of in-work parents rises it is vital that the childcare market adapts to meet growing demand. The growth of fluctuating work patterns means many parents now need more flexible childcare arrangements. Employers’ understanding and flexibility is also crucial.

"Without the right childcare in place parents’ work choices are limited, which can make it harder for them to support their family. It is good news that free childcare is being extended, but providers must be properly funded to offer the 30 hours per week. The Government also needs to work with childcare providers to deliver more flexibility, to fit around the people’s changing working lives.”

Previous analysis of the childcare market by Citizens Advice in July 2014 showed that:

  • 24 per cent of childcare providers do not offer parents the Government’s 15 hours’ free provision.

  • 3 in 4 providers do not provide evening or weekend care.

  • 40 per cent of childcare providers do not have a space available.

  • 9 out of 10 childcare providers expect payment in advance.

Notes to editors

  1. Previous research findings into the childcare market published in The practicalities of childcare: an overlooked part of the puzzle?
  2. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  3. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  4. To get advice online or find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk.
  5. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  6. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 6.6 million problems from April 2012 to March 2013. For full 2012/2013 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
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