Lack of childcare awareness affects life chances, commission warns

By Jess Brown

| 07 March 2016

A lack of awareness among working-class parents about what early years and childcare support is available to them is affecting their children's life chances, the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission has warned.

Working-class parents are less well-informed about childcare support than middle class parents, a study has found. Picture: Lucie Carlier

A survey of 1,000 parents by the government’s advisory body on social mobility found that “different socio-economic groups behave differently and have different experiences of some key aspects of early parenthood”.

It said that, in turn, this “has implications for social mobility”. A report on the findings found that working-class parents were significantly less likely to have attended any kind of antenatal class compared with middle-class parents (23 per cent compared with 37 per cent).

Working-class parents were also found to be less well-informed about the support they were entitled to in relation to childcare costs. It was found that 33 per cent of working-class parents, compared with 28 per cent of better-off parents, had no idea if they were eligible for support, or how to access it.

The Department for Education has dismissed the findings, stating that the study was based on a “small poll” and “does not reflect reality”.

But the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said the findings highlight the necessity for agencies to work to increase awareness among working-class parents of the help and support they can access.

“Middle-class parents are accessing more services antenatally and in the first year of their child’s life, appear to be more likely to be developing social connections for themselves and their child, and are also more informed about financial support with childcare costs and school options,” the report states.

“This emphasises the importance of the role of government, local authorities (including health visitors) and providers of services for parents of young children in providing both clear information about what is on offer, as well as no- or low-cost support and activities for parents and young children from the antenatal period onwards which enable social interaction between parents.

“There is a particular need to ensure that information, support and activities are accessible to parents from the lowest socio-economic groups.”

A DfE spokeswoman said: “This is a small poll based on the findings of just 1,000 parents, and does not reflect reality.

“Our own survey of more than 6,000 parents shows around half say there is enough information available. The recent National Audit Office report found that most parents of three- and four-year-olds take up free childcare places for their children.

“This is backed up by our own figures, showing that 96 per cent of three- and four-year-olds are already benefitting from high-quality free childcare, underpinned by an extra £1bn funding a year by the end of the parliament.”

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