The Government should make improving the quality of childcare and support for low-income families its top priority, says new report.
A new study by the Family and Childcare Trust, entitled Creating an anti-poverty childcare system, argues that better targeted investment and streamlined childcare funding would improve outcomes for children from poor backgrounds.
Evidence shows, it says, that only high quality childcare improves outcomes for children from deprived backgrounds.
Currently, however, half of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds do not receive their free entitlement in a setting led by an early years graduate.
The report, which was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, also claims families in the least affluent areas are less likely to have access to year-round, flexible daycare, limiting opportunities for parents to work or access education and training.
It also argues that the complicated system of support with childcare costs is difficult to navigate for parents, does not adequately support them in training or education, and offers poor work incentives for those with low incomes.
In order to deliver an ‘anti-poverty’ childcare system, the Family and Childcare Trust says, a number of changes need to be put in place.
There should be a move towards the formation of a more qualified early years workforce, paid in line with staff in schools who currently earn up to 68% more.
There also needs to be an investment in local services to deliver an entitlement to flexible daycare from the age of one, extending across a full working day and for 48 weeks of the year.
Finally, the report urges that more state subsidies be directed at service providers, as this is the most effective way to deliver access to high quality childcare, regardless of parents’ ability to pay.
Julia Margo, chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust said: ‘Our ambitious proposal for a simplified funding system could tackle many of the barriers low income families experience when they try to access childcare and help them move into work.
‘Evidence shows that sufficient funding for a high quality childcare system brings fiscal benefits in the longer term – through children’s attainment, increased maternal employment, higher tax intake and lower welfare payments.’