Daycare Trust’s Holiday Childcare Costs Survey 2011 – by Anand Shukla, acting Chief Executive

As part of National Childcare Week, today at Daycare Trust we have released our tenth annual Holiday Childcare Costs Survey, sponsored by Computershare Voucher Services. With the summer holidays looming, the survey results are a worrying read for parents and those in the childcare sector. The survey shows that play services and holiday play schemes are falling victim to local government spending cuts with 62% of local authorities in England cutting their budgets for childcare and play services since last year. The impact of these cuts are directly affecting parents as 52% of local authorities in England said that parents had reported a shortage of holiday childcare in the last 12 months. Without childcare during the summer period many parents may feel they have no option but to leave their job, or take unpaid leave to look after their children, which they can ill afford in a period where we are all currently feeling the pinch on our household incomes.

The survey revealed however that accessing childcare was not the only barrier for parents, but paying for it too. In the last year costs have increased by 3% in England with huge variation across the country. In the North East of England costs have increased by almost 20% in the last year. This rise puts a huge strain on families’ summer finances, resulting in some parents sitting down and doing the maths and realising the cost is so high that financially they lose, rather than gain by working longer hours.

At Daycare Trust we are campaigning at a local and national level to protect and extend holiday childcare provision. We urge the government to ensure that local authorities meet their obligations under the Childcare Act 2006 and guarantee that there is sufficient childcare for all working parents. Local authorities must protect holiday playschemes and subsidies for lower income families. The danger is that cuts don’t simply lead to bored children at home, but that they will lead to increased levels of child poverty and put parents’ jobs at risk.

These opinions are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Computershare Voucher Services.

Are you missing out on savings on the cost of school holiday fun?

The school holidays are only weeks away and our latest survey shows that more than half of working parents are unaware they could be using childcare vouchers to make big savings on the cost of holiday clubs, activity camps and other summer entertainment for their kids. We surveyed 1000 of our parents and 56% didn't know they could use childcare vouchers for things like holiday sports courses and adventure camps such as PGL and Camp Beaumont.

It’s a myth we’ve worked to dispel for several years now but the results of this survey show that the majority of people still believe that vouchers can only be used for nursery and more traditional childcare and as a result they’re missing out on vital savings.

The summer holidays in particular can be an expensive time for parents - paying for additional childcare and keeping the kids entertained can soon mount up. Despite this, only 1% of vouchers used by parents last year were put towards holiday clubs and activities, as opposed to 88% used for the more traditional forms of childcare.

I can’t stress enough that if you’re using registered care, be it breakfast clubs, holiday camps, after schools clubs, or even music lessons and other extracurricular activities, then ask if they accept childcare vouchers and start making those savings. With family budgets being squeezed more than ever at the moment, every penny counts!

If you’re looking for holiday activities for your kids, we’re starting a list of registered carers and the activities they offer on our facebook page.