According to Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents in England , 57 per cent of children living in the most deprived areas took up a childcare place in 2019, compared to 74 per cent of those living in the least deprived areas.
Sector organisations are calling on the Government to strengthen its focus on disadvantaged communities, by increasing funding levels for the free entitlements and targeting support where it is most needed.
What the survey says
Parents on the lowest incomes (earning below £10,000) and those living in the most deprived areas were less likely to be aware of the entitlement to 15 hours of free childcare.
Three- and four-year-olds are most likely to attend formal childcare settings, while children aged one and under are least likely.
A third of children from birth to four used informal childcare last year. Children were most likely to be cared for by grandparents.
The cost of childcare to parents has remained stable. According to the survey, the average (median) weekly amount paid by families to childcare providers was £45 in 2019, unchanged from the previous year.
Just over a quarter (27 per cent) of parents said they found it difficult or very difficult to meet their childcare costs, a slight rise from 2018. The DfE attributed this to a rise to the cost of childcare for children from birth to two.
Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of parents rated the overall quality of local childcare provision as ‘very’ or ‘fairly good’.
Two in five (40 per cent) of parents with a child aged up the age of four said they were aware of the Tax-Free Childcare scheme – up from 32 per cent in 2018
The survey also shows an increase in the number of families who have opened a Tax-Free Childcare account on the previous year. In 2019, 13 per cent of families opened an account compared to 8 per cent in 2018.
At the Early Years Alliance, chief executive Neil Leitch said: ‘The value of a quality early education is now recognised by most parents and these figures show that more and more of them are accessing a formal childcare place.
'That makes it all the more concerning however that a third of children in the most deprived areas are not. These are the children who stand to gain the most from quality childcare provision and we must do more to ensure they are able to access it because, at the moment, we are clearly not doing enough.
At the National Day Nurseries Association, chief executive Purnima Tanuku is concerned about the number of parents who are still unaware of the two-year-old childcare offer, especially in deprived areas. ‘This is where early education can make the most difference and more must be done to reach all communities in understanding the benefits for their children,’ she said.
‘The number of parents aware of Tax-Free Childcare is also still very low. The Government must do more to raise awareness of this support.’
How affordable is childcare in the UK?
While the Government’s current parent survey suggests that childcare costs have remained stable, research carried out by childcare platform Yoopies UK reveals that the UK ranks in the top three most expensive countries in Europe, surpassing the price of UK university tuition fees.
Access the Yoopies survey here