Headlines: July 18th, 2008

New research has found big gaps in holiday childcare across the country, especially for children with disabilities. The survey by the Daycare Trust, is the first to be carried out since councils in England and Wales had to undertake Childcare Sufficiency Assessments.

The survey found that more than half of English local authorities reported parents felt there was not enough holiday childcare. All regions pointed to a lack of places for children over 12 and for disabled children.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the charity Scope, said, “We are concerned that these new figures show that childcare provision for disabled children remains patchy across the country, and is clearly lagging behind provision for non-disabled children.”

Figures from the study also show big increases in the cost of care during the holidays. In England, the average increase in the last year was just over 10 per cent, which is the biggest rise since 2003. The cost in Great Britain as a whole went up by 8 per cent to an average of just over 87 pounds a week. The largest increases in costs were in the North East and West Midlands, where they rose by more than 21 per cent. In the East of England average costs are now 105 pounds a week and only in the South West did costs fall.

The Daycare Trust’s Joint Chief Executive, Emma Knights said it was deeply worrying that parents were reporting a shortage of holiday childcare provision. “The lack of childcare places for children of 12 and over is especially worrying for lone parents, as from autumn this year lone parents with children over the
age of 11 will be required to make themselves available for work or risk losing benefits.”