12th October 2022

The Children’s Commissioner’s vision for childcare

Today, I am publishing a ‘Vision for childcare. This report outlines the opportunities, challenges, and solutions to providing childcare and early education. It shows through new research that for the majority of the sample of local authorities, the childcare directory the ‘Family Information Service’ did not contain all of the information recommended in the statutory guidance. New analysis also shows that the uptake of childcare is varied across the country by local authority, ethnicity, English as additional language and Special Educational Need Status. And it further draws on qualitative work from Family and its protective effect: Part 1 of the Independent Family Review’. Families explained to me that they want childcare that has a familial feeling, that is trusted, reliable and affordable.

By shining a light on what families told me, and highlighting some of the challenges they are facing, I am optimistic that we can implement childcare that families want, need, and deserve.

Below, I am highlighting two conversations my team had with parents during fieldwork for Family Review Part 1. These summarise some of the issues around childcare that families have told me about.

The office spoke with a Mum of a toddler born during lockdown. We have called her Gemma.

Gemma raised the problem of availability of affordable activities to do with children during the school holidays – most are extremely expensive, unlike the baby and toddler group the team met her at, which is a voluntary £2 for an hour and a half session. Gemma said there need to be more community groups and activities for babies and toddlers within walking distance of her home, most require driving or getting public transport. She also explained that how when her baby was young, she didn’t have the confidence to take her on public transport. This meant she felt very isolated during the first months of her baby’s life. She likes spending time with the family by going to the park, playing at the playground, and having family meals together. She told the office that activities don’t need to be expensive, high-tech activities. Her children enjoy the more ‘simple’ family activities, but these are becoming less available as the local park is in disrepair and she doesn’t feel safe taking the children there on her own.

The office met a mum with her second child, who was 6 months old, also at a baby and toddler group. We have called her Amira.

Amira explained that her children enjoy spending family time at the park, but, similar to Gemma she feels nervous to take the children there on her own, as the playground is now quite rundown with poor lighting. Amira said that parks and playgrounds need to be regenerated to allow families to feel safe and enjoy this space without concern. She said that nursery and childcare costs are extremely high. This has prevented her going back to work, as she would need to pay more in childcare costs than she would earn returning to work. She relies on grandparents for childcare when needed, as it is too expensive to pay for. She also said it was very difficult to hear about groups like the baby and toddler group the office met her at, as they are only really advertised on social media. She would appreciate community groups being advertised on the council website, posters in community, and in GPs.