Childcare use, perceived impact on child development, information on working from home, and awareness and use of free entitlements for families of 0-4 year-olds during COVID-19

Ipsos MORI's latest research for the Department for Education gathered evidence during COVID-19 on the use of childcare in July 2021, as well as on the perceived impact of COVID-19 on child development, information on working from home, and awareness and use of free entitlements.

The author(s)

  • Tom Huskinson Public Affairs
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Childcare use

A recent survey by Ipsos MORI in July 2021 found that more than nine in ten (94%) parents whose child used formal childcare before COVID-19 reported that their child was using formal childcare at the time of the interview. 

In addition, when comparing formal childcare use with the previous term (January to March 2021), 93% of children using formal childcare in the previous term were using formal childcare in July 2021, and just 5% were using no childcare at all (neither formal nor informal childcare). 

Among parents whose child was receiving formal childcare in July 2021, 61% said they would use more hours of formal childcare for their child each week, if these hours were available.

Among parents whose child was not receiving formal childcare in July 2021, the most common reasons were that the parent never uses formal childcare (23%), that the childcare available was too expensive (21%), and that childcare was not needed as the parent(s) was on maternity or paternity leave (18%). Only 6% of parents 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 is only approximately 2% of all parents.

Parents whose child was not using formal childcare in July 2021 were asked what would encourage them to use formal childcare over the coming months. Parents most commonly cited childcare at a reduced or no cost (27%), followed by coronavirus restrictions lifting further (16%).

The total proportion of parents using formal childcare appears to be generally similar to before the pandemic. Currently, among all parents, around one-third (32%) reported that they have problems finding formal childcare for their child that is flexible enough to fit their needs.

Around seven in ten (71%) parents whose child used informal childcare before COVID-19 reported that their child was using informal childcare in July 2021.

Impact on child development

 More than half (56%) of parents whose child used formal childcare before COVID-19 reported that the overall disruption to schools and childcare settings since March 2020 had harmed their child’s social and educational development.  

Working from home

Almost two in five (37%) working parents reported that in July 2021 they were working from home more than half of the time. One-quarter (25%) reported that they were working from home all of the time, which compares with just 10% who reported working from home all of the time before March 2020. 

In one year’s time parents generally expect to be working from home less often than at the time of their interview in July 2021, and about as often than they were before March 2020. Specifically, 9% expect that they will be working from home all of the time.

Around one in eight (13%) parents have stopped using formal childcare, or are using fewer hours of formal childcare, as a result of working from home more often than they were before March 2020.

Awareness and use of free entitlements

Among all parents, more than four in five (84%) said they were aware of the 15 free hours policy for 3–4-year-olds, and more than seven in ten (72%) said they were aware of the 30 free hours policy for 3–4-year-olds with working parents. Among parents with a child aged 3-4, more than half (56%) believed that they were eligible for the 30 free hours scheme. 

Among parents with a child aged 2, more than seven in ten (72%) said they were aware that some 2-year-olds can get 15 free hours of childcare, and two in five (40%) believed that their child was eligible for these hours.

Technical note:

Ipsos MORI conducted interviews online with a representative sample of 1,000 parents of children aged 0-4 in England in July 2021. Interviews were conducted between 08 and 13 July 2021. Data are weighted to match the population profile of parents of children aged 0-4 in England by region, social grade, and the age of the selected child (i.e. the randomly selected child aged 0-4 about whom child-level questions were asked). Data between waves are not directly comparable due to changes made to the questionnaire. 

The author(s)

  • Tom Huskinson Public Affairs

Society