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Most 'plan to use free childcare'

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Publication Date: 
10 Jun 2015
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The vast majority of parents plan to take up the Government's offer of 30 free hours of care for pre-school children, according to a survey.

It suggests that many mothers and fathers are planning to take on or look for more work if and when they have access to the entitlement.

Under Government plans, free childcare and early years education for three and four-year-olds in England is to be doubled from 15 to 30 hours for each week of the school year, a move ministers say will help support hard-working families.

The survey, commissioned by the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), reveals that two-thirds of parents questioned (65.9%) say they would definitely take all of the free hours on offer, while a further 13.7% say they would probably take all of them.

Around 15.5% say they would definitely take some of them and 3.2% say they will probably take some of them.

The poll, carried out on the Netmums parenting website, also asked whether mothers and fathers would increase their working hours if the extra childcare was available to them.

It found that 33% said they were confident they could get the work and 19.4% said they would increase their hours if they could get more work.

Nearly a fifth (19.3%) said they would take some of the additional free hours to use for things other than work, such as housework, errands, study or "me time", while a further 28.1% said they would probably do so.

The NDNA calculated that based on the survey findings, with more than 1.3 million three and four-year-olds in England, there are likely to be hundreds of thousands more parents in the labour market for more work.

The association's chief executive, Purnima Tanuku, said the poll shows that the Government's offer of more childcare is "wanted and needed and already eagerly anticipated".

"The survey also suggests that reform will encourage more parents to work more hours, bringing the economic boost the Government wants. There could also be a knock-on effect that grandparents, freed up from childcare, may also look for more work."

She added that it is "extremely important" that the Government works with the childcare sector to introduce the reform.

"For example, 52% of parents are telling us they would rather have fewer hours all year round rather than term-time only," Ms Tanuku said. "Most people's jobs are not term-time only and such a move could help nurseries to create more places more efficiently.

"Expansion of free places presents a huge challenge for nurseries. Funding is critical and it's vital that the increase pledged by the Government is meaningful. Beyond funding, we need to ensure the nursery sector is able to expand its well-trained, professional workforce to meet the new challenge and that providers can create the extra capacity that will be needed."

Netmums editor-in-chief Anne-Marie O'Leary said: "The high - and rising - cost of childcare is one of the biggest factors stopping parents working. And for those parents who do work, on average childcare bills swallow up a third of their income, forcing them to cut back sharply in other areas.

"The proposed 30 free hours should - if properly funded - help make childcare more affordable for parents of three and four-year-olds, improve the choices UK parents have and ensure work pays for many more mums and dads."

David Cameron confirmed last week ahead of the introduction of the Childcare Bill that working parents of three and four-year-olds in some parts of England will be entitled to 30 hours a week from September 2016, earlier than previously predicted.

Ministers say up to 600,000 families will eventually benefit from the move, worth around £2,500 a year on top of the £2,500 they can already save from existing free childcare offers.

The Prime Minister admitted it will ''take time'' to get plans to double free childcare provision right amid warnings from childcare organisations such as the Pre-School Learning Alliance that the system faces ''meltdown'' unless the changes are fully funded.

A Government spokesman said: "The message is clear - this Government is on the side of working people, helping them get on and supporting them at every stage of life.

"That is exactly why we are pressing ahead with these reforms - so that not a moment is lost in getting on with the task - going further than ever before to help with childcare costs, helping hardworking families and giving people the choice to get into work or work more hours.

"Having the right childcare in place will mean more parents can have genuine choice, security and peace of mind when it comes to being able to support their family". 

The survey, published ahead of the NDNA's conference later this week, questioned around 1,000 parents, the majority living in England.

-reprinted from BT 

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Entered Date: 
17 Jun 2015
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