2016 Childcare Survey
Childcare provision is a crucial part of a modern state’s infrastructure. It enables parents to work, improves children’s outcomes and helps narrow the gap between disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers. Given how important childcare is to all of us, the Government is rightly spending both time and effort in making sure it works.
Since 2002 the Family and Childcare Trust has undertaken an annual survey, measuring the price and availability of childcare. The data – collected from local authority Family Information Services – makes it possible to monitor changes in childcare prices and supply from year-to-year.
The publication of this year’s survey, the 15th in the series, coincides with significant changes in childcare policy and funding. It shows that price rises have slowed compared with last year and are now increasing in line with inflation, although childcare remains a substantial item of family expenditure.
However welcome this slow down may be to parents, it is questionable whether the trend will continue, as the National Living Wage, pension auto-enrolment and new funding arrangements may put new financial pressures on childcare providers in the near future.
The survey’s findings also reveal some serious cracks in our childcare system. High costs remain a barrier to parental employment. Parents often still struggle to find the flexible childcare that enables them to work. We do not have enough childcare for disabled children and those in rural areas. The workforce is poorly paid, yet many childcare providers struggle to make ends meet. With additional pressure on the system, these cracks may well widen.