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Half of parents say the government has not done enough to support them during pandemic

By Rachel Lawlerfamily reading

Half of parents say that the government has not done enough to support them during the pandemic, according to a new survey by the Alliance.

The Alliance surveyed more than 2,000 parents of children under five in England about their experiences after the lockdown period.

The survey also revealed that a third of parents have seen a negative impact on their work life due to difficulties accessing childcare after the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Family wellbeing
Additionally, more than a quarter of parents say that these problems accessing childcare have had a negative impact on their mental health. This raises to almost half (48%) in the most deprived areas.

One in 10 parents who wanted to use formal childcare have been unable to since the easing of lockdown.

Roberta Mitchell, mother of a two-year-old and a four-year-old, based in Kettering, said: “People have been expected to go back to work without the required care in place or facing reduced hours. I had to ask my work to leave me on furlough as I wasn’t able to work my required hours with our pre-school only opening part-time.

“I have since been made redundant and I feel that my inability to return to work could have contributed to this.”

Restricted numbers
According to Department for Education (DfE) statistics, there are more than two million families in England with children aged under five, 87% of which use some form of formal childcare.

All nurseries, pre-schools and childminders in England have been allowed to open to all children since 1 June. However, a lack of adequate financial support from government alongside concerns about reopening safely have meant that around a third of providers were yet to reopen ahead of the summer holidays, according to DfE figures.

In addition, many of those settings that have reopened have been forced to restrict sessions or reduce their opening hours: the Alliance’s survey found that of those parents who were accessing formal childcare before lockdown, four in 10 (38%) are now taking up less hours per week, with more than half (56%) saying that this is because their childcare provider hasn’t been able to offer as many hours.

Support for the sector
The Alliance is calling on the government to provide an emergency rescue package for the childcare sector in England – alongside a longer-term sustained increase in general funding levels – at the upcoming Spending Review to ensure that early years providers are able to deliver high-quality, affordable and accessible care and education to their families both now and in the long-term.

Recent data from independent early years analysts Ceeda found that just 13% of nurseries and pre-schools in England, and 33% of childminders still expect to be operating at a profit by January 2021.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “It is clear that much more needs to be done to ensure that the parents of young children are able to access the childcare they need.

“For this to happen, the government simply must provide greater financial support to the early years sector so that nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are able to keep their doors opens and provide the care and education that families rely on.

“The Prime Minister recently talked about ‘the spiralling economic costs of parents and carers unable to work without the school or wraparound childcare they depend on’, but with around two million families with children under five using formal childcare, the government simply cannot afford to ignore the worsening crisis that the early years sector is facing any longer.

Economic cost
“It’s clear from our survey that many parents, and particularly those living in more disadvantaged areas, are already feeling the strain of reduced access to childcare – both in terms of work pressures and the impact on their mental health. With a quarter of providers fearing closure by next year, this situation is only going to get worse unless the government takes urgent action.

“As such, we urge the Chancellor to use the upcoming Spending Review as an opportunity to commit to the investment that the early years needs to survive the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. The alternative is a sector that may never recover from the impact of the pandemic, and hundreds of thousands of parents left without the support they need at the time they need it most.”

Find out more
FAQs on reopening for providers
Ask your MP to demand financial support for providers