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Rise of ‘start-up Britain’ hampered by lack of access to childcare

25 July 2014

41 per cent of charity’s clients say cost of childcare prevents their family taking employment

Detailed analysis by Citizens Advice reveals that parents on low incomes or with unstable working hours are forced to rely on poorer quality childcare providers. The rise in self-employment and jobs with irregular hours means working parents will increasingly depend on flexible childcare. However the charity’s research shows those childcare providers most likely to offer variable hours have poorer Ofsted ratings and so will be of lower quality.

The charity warns that despite strong financial help for parents from Government, practical problems like a lack of flexibility and no evening availability are likely to “continue to be a barrier to parents” who want to work, with 41 per cent of the charity’s clients saying the cost of childcare prevents them or their partner from increasing working hours or accepting a job.

Ministers will be particularly concerned that more than half of childminders, the childcare option best suited to those working flexible hours, did not offer parents the option of claiming the fifteen hours of support recently extended by the Coalition.

The return to economic growth has been accompanied by a steep increase in the number of people in self-employment, with 4.5 million people now working for themselves. Citizens Advice warned that whilst rising employment levels are welcome, the emerging trends in the labour market are “at odds” with services offered by childcare providers.

With more than one third of providers charging a fine for picking up a child late and more than half requiring one month’s notice to change arrangements, many working families will find that fluctuating hours and low incomes will prevent them from accessing and funding the childcare they need. Deposits of more than £100 and requirements for advance payment for the highest quality childcare are likely to be out of reach for hard-pressed families.

Analysis of the childcare market by Citizens Advice 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

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

“Jobs are no longer just nine to five but childcare often is. The Government has shown admirable commitment to helping parents deal with the cost of raising their children, but the reality is that accessing decent childcare will continue to be a barrier to parents wanting to work. Now that the Government has reduced costs, the other day-to-day barriers to childcare need to be addressed.

“The rise of start-up Britain is a challenge and opportunity for childcare providers to offer quality services which meet changing demand. Our evidence shows that the most suitable childcare options for those on unstable hours are likely to be of poorer quality, which could have a damaging impact on a child’s ability to learn and develop. Parents who work shifts or irregular hours may find that the lack of availability will be a major block to getting work. A last minute change of shift or an unexpected meeting could mean parents see their hard work undone by extra costs.

“Up-front costs are a hurdle for families trying to make ends meet, and for many it will simply not be possible to scrape together a deposit and advance payment to hold down a place for their child. If parents are unable to access or afford decent childcare then they can be prevented from going out to work. Government has made excellent progress in helping with costs but everyday childcare is at odds with modern working Britain.”

With childcare costs rising more than 70 per cent in the past decade helping families foot these bills has been a policy priority of the Coalition Government and is set to be one of the main battlegrounds of the 2015 General Election.

To ensure parents get the support that they need, the charity recommends that financial support for childcare be paid in advance rather than in arrears and that councils take closer oversight of the provision of childcare in their communities. After adopting its recommendations to increase support for low income parents, the charity also calls on ministers to give all parents in receipt of the new Universal Credit at least 90 per cent of the costs of their childcare and a Free School Meal for each child.

Researchers from the charity carried out a survey to examine the practical implications of additional support with childcare costs, with the final report ‘The Practicalities of Childcare: an overlooked part of the puzzle’ being published today (Friday July 25th 2014).

Notes to editors:

  1. A survey of childcare providers in communities across the UK was undertaken by advisers and volunteers from across the Citizens Advice service between March and April 2014, with top up calls taking place in May 2014 to ensure a representative sample of respondents.
  2. The survey received 400 responses: a representative sample of the different types of childcare provision: full day care providers; out of school providers (before and after school clubs and school holiday clubs); working childminders; and early years providers (nursery schools and primary schools with nursery and a reception class).
  3. Of Citizens Advice clients who have children, our national client survey indicates that 41% agree or strongly agree that the cost of childcare is preventing them or their partner from taking up employment or increasing their hours of work.
  4. This year the Citizens Advice service celebrates its 75th anniversary. We’ve planned a year of activity running from January to December 2014. Contact the press office on 03000 231 080, or via email at, to find out more.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 22,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.