Childcare use for families of 0-4 year-olds, 5-11 year olds and 12-14 year-olds, awareness and use of free entitlements, and perceptions of the rising cost of living

Ipsos' latest research for the Department for Education gathered evidence on the use of childcare in April 2022, as well as on awareness and use of free entitlements, and perceptions of the rising cost of living.

The author(s)

  • Fiona Rooney Managing Director, Northern Ireland
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Childcare use

Two thirds of parents of children aged 0-4 (66%) reported that their child is currently using formal childcare, and more than half (52%) are using informal childcare. Two in five (41%) are using both formal and informal childcare, and around a fifth of parents (22%) are not currently using any childcare. 

Half (50%) of parents of children aged 0-4 years-old surveyed use a nursery or pre-school as their formal childcare provider. Whereas those with children aged 5-11 years old are using wraparound services such as, breakfast or afterschool club (i.e., immediately before or after the school day) (24%) and out-of-school clubs or activities, (23%). Less formal childcare options are being used by those with children aged 12-14 years-old who rely on grandparents who do not live in their household (19%). 

Among parents whose child was receiving formal childcare in April 2022, 62% said they would use more hours of formal childcare for their child each week if these hours were available. More parents of those children aged 0-4 years-old (64%) would use more hours of formal childcare each week if these were available compared with those with a child aged 5-11 year-old (57%).  One in ten parents of children aged 0-4 (10%) experienced a reduction in the number of available days or hours available to access childcare since Sept 2021.

There is also evidence that working patterns have changed to accommodate childcare with some parents reporting that either they changed their working times to accommodate looking after their child (12%) or their partner was able to change working times (6%). Those parents with older children aged 5-11 years-old (15%) and 12-14 years old (14%) are more likely to have changed their working hours to fit around their childcare compared to those with children aged 0-4 years-old (7%).

Perceptions of childcare

The majority of parents report that they are happy with the opening hours offered by their main formal childcare provider (63%).  Those with children aged 0-4 years (67%) are happier than those with older children (5-11 year-olds, 55%, 12-14%, 49%) with the opening hours of their main formal childcare provider. One third of parents of children aged 0-4 (33%), 29% of parents of 5-11 year olds and 17% of parents of 12-14 year olds agree that they have problems finding formal childcare for their child that is flexible enough to fit their needs. 

Two in five (39%) parents stated that the most important factor when choosing a provider is choosing one that encourages their child to socialise with other children. Almost three-quarters of parents (71%) felt that the number of people looking after their child at any one time was 'about right’.

Barriers to formal childcare

Only 2% of parents (4% of parents with a child aged 0-4) whose child was not receiving formal childcare said they would like to use formal childcare but have not been able to find a suitable provider. This represents less than 1% of all parents surveyed.

The main barrier that parents are facing which prevents them accessing or using the childcare that they would like is the cost of provision. Over half of parents (52%) report that the extent that cost of provision stops them either a great deal (31%) or a fair amount (21%).  

Among parents whose child was not receiving formal childcare in April 2022, the most common reasons were that the parent never uses formal childcare (35%), childcare was not needed as the parent(s) can continue to work from home and look after their child (24%), and the childcare available was too expensive (18%). 

Awareness and use of free entitlements

Among all parents with children aged 2-4 who are currently receiving formal childcare from a nursery or pre-school, a childminder, a breakfast club, or an after-school club, three-quarters (75%) were receiving free hours of childcare. Of those who were receiving free hours of childcare, two thirds (66%) were receiving all the free hours under the 15 hours free scheme and one third (34%) were also receiving free hours under the 30 free hour scheme.

Perceptions of the rising cost of living

Nine in ten (92%) parents overall are very or fairly concerned about the rising cost of living - 59% are very concerned and 33% are fairly concerned. There were no differences between age groups (parents of 0-4s or 5-14s), area deprivation levels or whether it was a couple or lone parent household. 

One in ten (12%) parents reported that childcare costs were among the top three areas causing them the most concern. The top three factors selected were household energy bills (72%), groceries (53%) and petrol/diesel (51%). Parents of children aged 0-4 were more likely to select childcare costs in their top three factors (17%) than parents of children aged 5-14 (7%).

Technical note:

Ipsos conducted interviews online with a representative sample of 2,000 parents of children aged 0-4 and 5-14 in England in April 2021. Interviews were conducted between 6th April and 6th May 2022. Data are weighted to match the population profile of parents of children aged 0-4 and 5-14 in England by region, social grade, and the age of the selected child (i.e. the randomly selected child aged 0-4 and 5-11 about whom child-level questions were asked).  Data between waves are not directly comparable due to changes made to the questionnaire. 

The author(s)

  • Fiona Rooney Managing Director, Northern Ireland

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