Select Committee on Work and Pensions Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (ES 13C)

SUPPORTING EMPLOYMENT THROUGH BETTER CHILDCARE

DEPARTMENTAL PRIORITIES AND STRATEGIC TARGETS

  1.  Readily available and suitable childcare is very important to parents, enabling them to take up opportunities to work, learn and train with confidence and assurance; and provides a safe and stimulating environment for their children.

  2.  The Department for Education and Skills is responsible for the National Childcare Strategy which aims to ensure affordable, accessible and quality childcare is available in every neighbourhood. There is a particular focus on three areas:

    —  Extending provision in disadvantaged areas and reducing the "childcare gap" between those areas and more affluent ones;

    —  Supporting the Welfare to Work objectives of increasing employment and decreasing unemployment by ensuring provision for parents, particularly lone parents; and

    —  Promoting the development of integrated early education, childcare and other family support programmes.

  3.  Targets for March 2004 include:

    —  Creating 900,000 new childcare places for 1.6 million children which, taking into account turnover, should allow around one million extra children to benefit from childcare in England alone;

    —  Realising the ambition that there should be a childcare place for every lone parent entering employment in the most disadvantaged areas; and

  4.  Childcare funding will treble from £66 million in 2000-01 to over £200 million in 2003-04, with an additional £155 million from the New Opportunities Fund to increase provision in disadvantaged areas. Much of this increased funding will be directed through our Neighbourhood Childcare Initiative to expand provision in the 20 per cent most disadvantaged areas by:

    —  Creating 45,000 new day care places in up to 900, state of the art, Neighbourhood Nurseries;

    —  Setting up around 50,000 Neighbourhood Out Of School Hours Childcare places; and

    —  Establishing 25,000 new Neighbourhood Childminder places as part of an overall 145,000 national increase in places.

  5.  Other action being taken under the National Childcare Strategy to increase the availability of suitable and affordable childcare which will help parents find or return to work includes:

    —  Introducing the Working Families Tax Credit, including a new Childcare Tax Credit component from October 1999. Latest figures for November 2001 show that 158,000 families are currently receiving the Childcare Tax Credit component—more than three times the 47,000 who had help with childcare costs under family Credit; and

    —  Providing targeted help with childcare costs to New Deal claimants.

PROGRESS

  6.  We are well on track to meeting the overall target for new childcare places. From April 1997 to December 2001, over 497,000 new childcare places where created for 884,000 children (cf targets for March 2004 of 906,000 and 1.6 million respectively). Taking account of turnover, the net increase in places is already more than 291,000, for over 547,000 children (cf the target of 1 million extra children to benefit).

  7.  The position in relation to the target for childcare for lone parents entering employment in disadvantaged areas is at an earlier stage. In their plans all Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships (EYDCPs) have agreed in principle to the goal. We are now taking action to confirm statistical details with EYDCPs and local Jobcentre Plus colleagues to help them set specific numerical targets. Officials from DfeS, HM Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions are working together to determine how this can be best done.

  8.  On Neighbourhood Nurseries, Ministers have now approved EYDCPs' plans which show how EYDCPs are bringing together different approaches from the private, voluntary and maintained sectors. Partnerships have created the first places in existing settings and the first 15 new Neighbourhood Nurseries have now opened. We expect the rate of openings to increase rapidly in the months ahead and EYDCPs' plans show that we will be on track to deliver the 2004 target of 45,000 childcare places—the equivalent of nine hundred 50 place nurseries. Current figures indicate that around 12 per cent of places will become available in the first year of the initiative, just under 50 per cent in year two and the remainder in year three.

  9.  Monitoring information on Out of School Hours Childcare places will not be available until mid July.

  10.  On childminder places, there were around 10,000 new places in disadvantaged areas at March 2002, representing good progress against the 2004 target of 25,000. The comparable figures for all parts of the country are around 45,000 extra places provided by March 2002, against the 2004 target of an extra 145,000 places. A regional breakdown of the number or childminder places in total and in disadvantaged areas at March 2002 is shown below:

Region
New childminder places
March 2002
All areas
New childminder places
March 2002
Disadvantaged areas
East England
5,547
608
East Midlands
3,428
667
London
4,817
1,380
North East
1,887
666
North West
6,633
2,742
South East
9,314
1,114
South West
5,359
517
West Midlands
4,254
1,162
Yorkshire & Humberside
3,849
1,071
Total
45,088
9,927


INFORMATION SERVICES ABOUT CHILDCARE

  11.  The ChildcareLink information line (Tel: 0800 096 0296) and website (http://www.childcarelink.gov.uk) were launched in December 1999 and provide information on childcare and early education options including directing callers to local services. ChildcareLink is an increasingly popular resource for parents, with each week over 1,000 receiving help and advice through its information line; and in March 2002 alone its website recorded over 125,000 visitors. The website is also now available free of charge to employers to place on their company intranets.

  12.  We have in addition been working in partnership with a range of kiosk providers and major retailers to make the ChildcareLink website available in public places. Many parents do not have access to the internet at home and these new high street kiosks will help meet the demand for the best advice and information. The first partnership—with Mothercare—was formally announced in December 2000 followed by further collaborations with, amongst others, BT, Lloyds Pharmacy and Tesco. Within two to three years, it is hoped there will be 8,000 kiosks across the UK.

  13.  Government funding for Childcare Information Services (CIS) through local authorities is included as part of their Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) funding. The amount of funding made available from SSA to local authorities for CIS will then reflect local priorities and we do not have detailed information therefore about the funding made available for this purpose. However, for 2001-02, EYDCPs were allocated £15millon through the Childcare Grant for CIS.

  14.  The introduction of Childcare Coordinators in every Jobcentre Plus district in April 2003 will help improve access to information about local childcare provision. In particular, the Co-ordinators will work closely with their local Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships to ensure that growth in childcare provision takes full account of the needs of unemployed parents.

Definitions

  Childcare—Childcare does not include early education provision for three and four year olds, whether or not that provision is receiving nursery education grant. It does however include childcare provision before and/or after such early education provision (which could be wrap around or out of school care); and daycare—including childminding

  Childcare Place—For pre-school childcare, including any three and four year olds not taking part in early education, a childcare place is provision lasting three and a half hours or more per day.

  Out of school childcare (including some childminding), a childcare place is provision (not prescribed by a specific number of hours) for a child through a breakfast or before school service; an after school service; a before and after school service; a holiday service; or an all year service.

Childminder Places

  (a)  The targets quoted are an amalgamation of individual EYDCPs current targets for creation of new childminding places, which amount to more than the national targets. (EYDCPs review their targets on an annual basis).

  (b)  The target of 145,000 new childminding places is a gross figure not a net figure. The planned net increase in the number of childminding places is much lower. The Annual Daycare Survey has reported a steady decline in the number of childminding places since 1996. EYDCPs are working towards national targets to reduce the childminding turnover rate to 10:9 over the three years of the strategic plan, ie for every 10 childminding places that open between April 2001 and March 2004 no more than nine should close. This would give an overall net increase of 10 per cent of the gross target (14,500 childminding places) by 2004.

3 July 2002



 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 12 July 2002