Commission launches comprehensive report on childcare

The Equality and Human Rights Commission today launched a comprehensive report on childcare. The report assesses whether current provision helps or hinders parents’ wishes to combine work and caring. It also highlights the importance of good quality childcare in closing the educational attainment gaps between rich and poor.

Speaking at the launch of the report today, Baroness Margaret Prosser, deputy chair of the Commission, emphasized that the debate on affordable childcare was particularly timely, coming just weeks after the Government’s white paper on welfare reform. She drew attention to concerns that what parents with young children do is a major issue.

Highlighting the extent to which affordable childcare is a barrier to paid employment for too many parents, the report found:

  • Around one in five parents who pay for childcare say that they struggle to meet their childcare costs. This proportion is significantly higher among lone parents, families with low incomes and those living in deprived areas.
  • In England, 28 per cent of non-working parents say they are not working because of inadequate childcare provision. 
  • More than half of non-working lone mothers say they would prefer to work if they could find good quality, affordable and reliable childcare[i].

While evidence suggest that extending access to low income and certain ethnic groups will help close educational attainments gaps, take up remains low amongst these groups.

  • By the age of five, only 35 per cent of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals achieved a good level of development compared to 55 per cent of pupils who are not eligible for free school meals[ii].
  • Formal childcare use is lower in the most deprived areas, 34 per cent compared to 53 per cent in the least deprived areas. 
  • 58 per cent of families with annual incomes of more than £45,000 used formal childcare compared with under a third (31 per cent) of families with annual incomes below £10,000[iii].
  • Ofsted has found the quality of childcare is generally poorer in the most disadvantaged areas.
  • Children who did not experience any pre-school provision demonstrated lower cognitive abilities and poor social development at school entry[iv]
  • Pilot projects testing the extension of free hours of childcare in good quality settings to two-year-olds in disadvantaged areas found improvements in vocabulary and better parent-child relationships.

The Commission’s report makes the link to opening two of the key ‘pillars of opportunity’ highlighted in its recent How Fair is Britain? report. These are work and wealth; education and inclusion; closing the gender pay gap; and tackling the educational attainment gap between rich and poor.

The report was launched at a joint meeting of the Childcare All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and the Parents and Families APPG. Sarah Teather MP, minister of State for Children and Families, and Katherine Rake, Chief Executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, and Anand Shukla, Acting Chief Executive of the Daycare Trust were among the speakers and attendees.

Baroness Margaret Prosser, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“When getting people back into work is a government priority, consideration of what those with young children do with them is a major issue. Any reduction in support for childcare costs could compound some of the access to work issues highlighted in today’s report.

“Higher costs to already financially stretched parents will create a disincentive to work. Proposed welfare changes need to be underpinned by affordable childcare; and we need to see welfare reform and childcare provision as two sides of the same coin.

“This is also about improving children’s life chances and social mobility. Those with the most to gain are the least likely to have access to high quality, affordable childcare. As this report makes all too clear, that’s a missed opportunity to have a positive impact on a child’s long-term learning and development.”

Anand Shukla, acting Chief Executive of the Daycare Trust, said:

“We are glad that the Equality and Human Rights Commission is drawing attention to the role of childcare in supporting parents to balance work and caring responsibilities. The report echoes the Daycare Trust’s belief that high quality, accessible and affordable early years’ education and care can transform lives, improving child outcomes, life chances and ultimately increase social mobility.

“It also underlines the point that the families who stand to gain the most through getting childcare are the most likely to miss out on it, because of the gaps and flaws that still exist, including a lack of services for disabled children and a lack of wraparound childcare for older children. It also highlights the fact that many families continue to struggle to pay for childcare, with lone parents and low-income families finding it most difficult.

“We fully support the Commission’s recommendation that the Government finds new ways of providing support for low income families to access quality childcare for children aged 0-2 years olds, as well as building on the planned expansion of free places for two year olds.”


For more press information contact the Commission’s media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.

For general enquiries please contact the Commission’s national helpline: England 0845 604 6610, Scotland 0845 604 5510 or Wales 0845 604 8810.

Notes to Editors

Childcare Matters: Improving Choices and Chances for Parents and Children is the latest in a series from the Commission’s flagship ‘Working Better’ project. The report is a policy paper drawing on a wide range of sources. These include a comprehensive literature review of existing research by Campbell-Barr and Garnham (2010) Childcare: a review of what parents want; the Commission’s own major survey of modern families, and How Fair is Britain? the Commission’s comprehensive report on the key equality challenges facing modern Britain.

Working Better was launched in the summer of 2008 to find ways of enabling groups of workers marginalised or disadvantaged in relation to the labour market and under-using their skills and potential to better access and progress in work throughout their working lives. The project aims to identify innovative ways of working, which will help meet the challenges faced in the 21st century by working parents, older and younger people, disabled people and carers.

The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of the Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, sexual orientation, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.

[i] Speight, S., Smith, R., La Valle, I., Schneider. V. and Perry. J., with Coshall. C. and Tipping. S. (2009) Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents 2008, London: DSCF/NatCen

Bivand, P. and Simmonds, D. (2008) Reducing parent worklessness. York: JRF

[ii] Equality and Human Rights Commission (2010) How Fair is Britain? The first triennial review. Manchester: EHRC

[iii] Speight, S., Smith, R., La Valle, I., Schneider. V. and Perry. J., with Coshall. C. and Tipping. S. (2009) Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents 2008, London: DSCF/NatCen

[iv] Johnson, P. And Kossykh, Y (2008) Early years, life chances and equality: a literature review. Manchester: Equality and Human Rights Commission

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