Free Childcare for Parents to Double

June 2, 2015 Published by

Parents are always striving to do what is best for their family and the announcement that free childcare for parents is to double in England is, on the surface, very appealing. Those who follow a parent-centred parenting approach to family life know that happy parents are able to be strong role models for their children and this covers work, childcare and the family finances.

Any help to make this easier and more affordable seems a great idea. Supporting parents who want to work is wonderful and parents should feel confident to do what is best for them and their family. But there are things to consider too.

children-in-playschoolBenefits of Extra Free Childcare

Increasing the number of free childcare hours means:

  • Reduced costs for working parents, allowing them to take home more of their wages at the end of the month.
  • Less stress over household bills, and more family time where parents don’t have as much pressure to alternate their working patterns to juggle childcare.
  • More parents have the option of returning to work where previously it would not have been financially worth doing. More choice means happier parents.



Things to Consider

The promise to double free childcare for over 3’s, of parents who work, means:

  • meetingOne parent could still be out of the workplace for three years per child. Taking this length of time out of work is still seen as a disadvantage so a shake-up to make workplaces more open minded towards career-breaks is needed.
  • It is aimed at families where all parents are working, but what about parents who are unable to work or those who are job hunting? Even if they manage to secure a new job, will they have to wait for a place at a nursery or pre-school? Would an employer wait for them?
  • Childcare settings will need a lot of investment. Currently nurseries say there is a 20% shortfall in funding free places; some are having to increase the cost of places for younger children, and those who pay for their child to attend, to make this up.


Questions Raised

Comparing childcare and choosing one that suits your family is a big decision, and encouraging parents to work who may have been happier staying at home to look after their child may not be a great thing for everyone. It is such a personal choice and offering the extra free hours may increase stay-at-home parents’ feelings of guilt over choosing not to work.

  • Currently all 3 and 4 year olds (and some 2 year olds) are entitled to 570 hours of free early year’s education per year, regardless of whether their parents are working. Will this still apply?empty-classroom
  • How will the extra childcare places be found? Nurseries and Pre-schools may need to be extended, or new ones built, to provide enough places for the free funding – who will cover these costs?
  • Will the quality of childcare suffer as a result of more children spending longer in childcare? The quality of childcare provided is paramount, and should remain the deciding factor for parents.

It is also misleading to say that free childcare is doubling when there are eligibility criteria imposed on the funding. Announcing that all parents must be working needs clarification for those who are part-time, seasonal workers or self-employed.



Kate with the class for the Big Steps Childcare Campaign by Kate Lundy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

How to run an effective meeting by Nguyen Hung Vu is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Kids Work Chicago Daycare by Kids Work Chicago Daycare Site is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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This post was written by Anna Taylor

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