Blog | UK economy loses 900,000 working days every year due to lack of holiday childcare
Duncan Lugton | 17 Jul
Our newly published Holiday Childcare Survey 2014 reveals that nearly a million working days are lost – at a cost of £100 million a year to the UK economy – as one in five parents are forced away from work to cover childcare over the holidays.
While some parents are lucky and have access to high quality affordable holiday childcare, our research shows that many families face a holiday childcare lottery of high costs and patchy provision.
Despite a legal obligation to provide enough childcare for working parents, only 27 per cent of English local authorities and 6 per cent in Wales have enough provision for these families. Unhappily, these gaps are increasing. In 2009 49 per cent of English local authorities had enough childcare for working parents. And the situation is even more acute for disabled children and children in rural areas.
And the costs to parents are becoming ever steeper. This year, the cost for one week of holiday childcare was £114.51. In the last five years prices have gone up by 21 per cent in private and voluntary provision and 17 per cent in the public sector. This is while most people’s salaries have remained the same.
All this takes a toll on families, with nearly one in five of the parents in our survey saying that they have called in sick over the holiday period because they couldn’t find childcare. Some 12 per cent of parents had given up a job because they could not find holiday childcare. And more than a quarter of parents also said they had not been able to take a family holiday together because they had to use up their annual leave separately to care for their children.
Finding ways to cope puts a real burden on families, particularly those without support networks. Yasmin, a mother of two, said:
“Last summer I had to leave my 16 year old to look after my seven year old because I couldn’t afford the childcare. Not great thing to do for either of them. I just wish there were more jobs that offered school hours.”
And it doesn’t work for employers or the state either. Employers want a reliable work force that turns up every day. And the state prefers income from taxes rather than spending money on benefits. As most parents have no choice but to work they should not have to take sick days to manage childcare.
Across Britain all the major political parties have recognised the importance of high quality and affordable childcare for families. But for too long, holiday childcare for school-aged children has been a forgotten issue. The run up to the next election is an opportunity to address this and commit to a long-term childcare strategy that delivers for parents, employers, the economy and crucially, for children.