Firstly we would like to say a big thank you to everyone who took part in the Parental Choice Family Friendly UK survey. The results were very interesting and indicative of a growing discontent with the growing cost of childcare and its availability in the UK.
Whilst overall respondents thought that the UK, in general, was family friendly (over 70%); the overwhelming majority (60%) thought that the Government was not doing enough to support families in the UK. The cost of childcare was the biggest concern with many stating that the cost was so prohibitively expensive that it prevented mothers from returning to work. One responder stated “we simply need more childcare”, whilst another highlighted the difference between the UK and other countries in Europe where childcare is heavily state subsidised, allowing more mothers to return to work. A view that was often repeated was that “it was hard to justify going back to work when childcare costs are so high”.
It was clear that most respondents felt it was the Government’s role to tackle childcare cost issues as well as enforcing flexible working on employers. And yet realistically one respondent stated that despite an extension to the right to request flexible working, the right to refuse still remained and whilst the Government may be able to push through cultural reforms in the public sector, the private sector was a different matter. One view was that “employers do not back flexible working or childcare support to the extent that having kids is a death sentence for careers”. The ability to access flexible hours and time for child emergencies, whether illness or childcare related, was a key element in the survey’s responses. 32% said that they had to take holiday when it came to emergencies or even just taking their children to school. Although a few were adamant that it was not the employers responsibility to help support working parents with one stating “any support would annoy other employees who see parents getting everything whilst they had no support”, over 54% stated employers weren’t doing enough to help working parents.
The communities in which we live as well as the amenities provided were generally perceived to be family friendly, although most (60%) acknowledged that they had not used their local authority to access childcare, or even locate it. Services like the Family Information Service are clearly therefore not being used, with many families relying on personal recommendations for childcare or internet searches. Again this is an area that the Government was expected to develop with many asking for more information and more detail on childcare as well as the financial support available to parents. Nursery education grant funding and the new state backed childcare voucher scheme, whilst appreciated by a lot of our respondents, were two areas that were still unclear to most with more clarity required as to how they both actually worked.
Our survey provided one strong message: the provision of childcare and its relative cost is the major complaint of working parents in the UK. The burden lies with our Government but also with employers to at least recognise working parents in this country whether through childcare vouchers or flexible working. Whilst the UK is in the most part considered family friendly it is clear that despite recent Government initiatives there is a long way to go to satisfy working parents in the UK. 2015 heralds election year. The political parties would be wise to listen to the voice of working parents in the UK; childcare is a fundamental key issue. Economically as well, greater support for working parents through increased subsidised childcare, greater childcare provision and the emergence of flexible working as the norm rather than the exception can only mean more parents back in the employment cycle which boosts the tax coffers. Food for thought. It is time to recognise working parents in the UK.
Thank you again to all those who took part in this survey. Your opinions are invaluable and we appreciate your honesty.