Spiralling costs are forcing parents to choose between work or childcare

  • More than a third of parents (36%) find it difficult to find preschool childcare, 76% said this was due to affordability issues.
  • Of those parents who found it difficult to find childcare 67% would rely on friends of family and 63% would either reduce their working hours or choose not to work or attend education at all.
  • 41% of parents of preschool children said they were unable to access childcare during the working day, 59% said this was an important factor on deciding whether to work or study
  • 64% of respondents indicated that their employer provided little or no flexible working options

New research from Flexible Childcare Services Scotland (FCSS) shows that affordability is one of the greatest barriers for parents trying to find preschool childcare.

FCSS, a national charity that already runs 23 childcare settings across Scotland, conducted the research with 600 parents to understand some of the challenges of accessing childcare, so that they could better support the children and families that use their services.

According to one parent:

“Childcare is dictated to parents while they have no choice on cost. It makes it very difficult to be a working parent. I will possibly have to give up the nursery place as we won’t be able to afford it with rising costs of living.”

The charity believes that with the cost of living crisis is forcing parents to think differently about how they manage their childcare in an attempt to save money.

For instance, the research shows that of those parents who found it difficult to find childcare, 67% would rely on friends of family to support them with their childcare.

“I am penalised for working fulltime and I’m having to rely on family to look after my child.”

Another said:

“A lack of accessibility meant I had to reduce hours at work and rely on my mum also”.

Unfortunately, those families who can’t rely on friends or family are being forced out of the workplace so that they can save money on childcare. According to the research 63% of parents who found it difficult to find childcare would either reduce their working hours or choose not to work at all in a bid to manage their childcare needs.

One parent told us that:

“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, especially during covid times.”

However, it’s not just cost that’s causing chaos for parents; the research also stated that 41% of parents with preschool children were unable to access childcare during the day and 59% said this was an important factor on deciding to stay in work or education.

“The waiting lists are long and costs high. It makes more sense for one parent not to work at all.”

With such a drive to get parents back to work this new research shows the great challenge that many parents face when considering childcare.

However Flexible Childcare Scotland’s chief executive Susan McGhee believes her charity has a solution:

“This research shows the harsh reality that families across the country face – to work or not to work – as the cost of living crisis intensifies, this problem is likely to be compounded putting even greater challenges on families. However, at FCSS we deliver a flexible childcare model, one that means parents can book their childcare at the times when they need it most. This saves families thousands of pounds in childcare each year and, as they are able to remain in work, they can also maintain, if not increase, their annual household income. Through this model we know that we are distancing families from poverty.”

According to Flexible Childcare Services Scotland, and from research into their own service users, 94% said that by using flexible childcare they had increased their annual income up to £5,000 per year.

Unfortunately, many parents still don’t have the option to choose flexible childcare, something that FCSS are trying to address through their free childcare management software, Caerus, which helps childcare providers to manage their entire setting, and release any extra capacity as flexible spaces. This flexible model will help parents to save money on childcare as they will only need to pay for the childcare they actually need. It will also allow providers to maximise their occupancy levels and increase revenue by releasing unused spaces as flexible spaces.

Dr Judith Turbyne, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland said: 

“There is a commitment at national level to get parents, particularly mothers, back into the workforce but the reality is that this can be really difficult as frequently the mechanisms are not there on the ground to allow that to happen. Parents are consistently telling us that the childcare provision they have been offered or are able to access doesn’t meet their needs. This has to change. We need to do more to help working parents find early learning and childcare provision that works for them, their child and their family in order to stop more families falling into poverty.”