New research shows that flexible childcare can reduce family poverty

  • Only 33% of parents with preschool children said their childcare provider offered flexible childcare. The majority (59%) said they would change to a flexible provider if there were options nearby.
  • 66% of parents whose childcare provider doesn’t offer flexible childcare, said they would be more likely to work or study more if flexible childcare options were available.
  • 96% of parents whose current provider offers flexible childcare said their current childcare arrangements met their needs compared to those whose current provider does not offer flexible childcare (69%).

New research by Flexible Childcare Services Scotland (FCSS) shows that many families in Scotland still struggle to find, access and afford suitable childcare services and that flexible childcare is not only desirable, but that it gives parents an opportunity to increase household income.

According to one parent: “When researching childcare options it became apparent that we would not be able to afford this until our child is eligible to attend Government-funded places. We would need a third full time income to afford childcare.”

Childcare costs in Scotland, although lower on average than in England, are still notoriously high and can be a huge burden for many families. However, FCSS, a national charity who manage 23 childcare services across Scotland, say that flexible childcare will reduce costs and help parents to find and stay in meaningful employment, increasing household income and distancing families from poverty. Unfortunately, flexible childcare is not readily available to many families despite calls from local and national government.

One research respondents explained: “Being a shift worker, flexibility can be a problem. My shifts change on a weekly basis, and it can be difficult to get somewhere that can accommodate this.”

According to the research from FCSS only 33% of parents with preschool children said their current provider offered flexible childcare.

Susan McGhee, chief executive at FCSS, said: “Flexible and responsive childcare is a relatively new concept, indeed most childcare providers have been delivering the same fixed patterns for years. This research shows, without any doubt, that more and more families are looking for flexible childcare – it meets their needs, reduces their costs and helps families to increase their earning potential – if we are to tackle the problems faced by families in relation to childcare, flexibility needs to be front and centre in everyone’s minds.”

The charity offers a flexible childcare model meaning that parents can book by the hour, change their bookings each week and only pay for the childcare they actually use. In some areas, thanks to strong partnerships with the Local Authority, families’ funded hours can also be used flexibly, maximising the benefit and saving them even more money. However, this is a huge contrast to the standard model of booking set blocks of time, which can be expensive and doesn’t always meet the needs of families. Indeed, 59% of parents would change to a flexible provider if there were options nearby.

One parent said, “If it was affordable to put them in to childcare I would work more but I’m not using the extra I earn just so someone else can raise my kids.”

Another said: “It is a sacrifice to our household income to have childcare in order to work full time and I do not have support from other family members.”

Flexible Childcare Services Scotland have been tasked by Scottish Government to scale their flexible model and the charity has subsequently developed childcare management software which will allow every childcare provider in Scotland to implement an element of flexibility in their services.

The software, known as Caerus, is free to registered childcare providers and covers early years and school age childcare. With 96% of parents whose current provider offers flexible childcare saying their current childcare arrangements met their needs, the charity have high hopes that Caerus will ensure that flexible childcare will become the norm and not the exception.