Single parents and poor families 'benefit least' from 30 hours childcare

Joe Lepper
Friday, April 20, 2018

Single parents and families on low incomes gain the least under the government's 30 hours and tax-free childcare initiatives, a charity has claimed.

Couples and middle and high earners benefit the most from the government’s 30 hours and tax-free childcare initiatives, a study has found. Picture: Family and Childcare Trust
Couples and middle and high earners benefit the most from the government’s 30 hours and tax-free childcare initiatives, a study has found. Picture: Family and Childcare Trust

A study by the Family and Childcare Trust has found that couples and middle and high earners benefit the most from the initiatives, which includes 30 hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds of working parents where neither earns more than £100,000 a year.

The charity's research found that a single parent, working full time on the minimum wage, is £55 a month better off, while a higher earning couple where both are working full time save £351 per month.

There is a similar finding among part-time workers. A single parent working three days a week on the minimum wage saves just £37 a month, while a couple where one works full time and one part time, on average to higher salaries, are £269 a month better off.

The Family and Childcare Trust said single parents are particularly disadvantaged as their parenting commitments mean they are often unable to work more hours.

"Childcare is as vital as the rails and roads - it supports parents to work, boosts children's outcomes and provides our economy with a reliable workforce," said Family and Childcare Trust chief executive Ellen Broomé.

"Recent investment in childcare is welcome, and popular with the families who are benefiting. But we need to make sure that support is reaching the families that need it most - particularly the lowest income families or those with very young children who face the highest costs with the least support.

"While better-off families will be feeling the benefit of new investments, lower income families might find that they end up paying to work more hours."

The charity is to present its evidence to a meeting today of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on families in the early years, which it acts as secretariat for.

"Any investment that helps parents, particularly mothers, to work or to work more hours is welcome, but we mustn't forget that early education and care is also vital to boost school readiness and narrow the development gap that exists between poorer children and their peers pre-school," said APPG for families in the early years chair Lucy Powell MP.

"With new investment so heavily weighted to already advantaged families, it is vital that ministers level the playing field and redouble their efforts to boost social mobility in the early years."

Last month a report from the APPG on a fit and healthy childhood called on ministers to expand the 30-hour offer to make it available to all pre-school age children automatically. The group is concerned that a large group of disadvantaged parents are missing out on the offer.

Children's minister Nadhim Zahawi, said: "Latest figures show that 294,000 children are now benefiting from our 30 hours free childcare offer, saving hardworking parents around £5,000 per child per year and giving them extra cash in their pockets.

"This offer is above and beyond the 15 hours free childcare available for all three- and four-year-olds and disadvantaged two-year-olds.

"We want every child to get the best start in life and we are making excellent progress in our mission to help as many families as possible access high-quality and affordable early education and childcare."

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