British parents face a ‘double squeeze’ of expensive childcare costs and patchy availability this summer

Published: Tuesday 20th July 2021

As the long school holidays approach, families across Britain are gearing up for another challenging summer of eyewatering childcare prices and limited availability.

CFC Holiday Childcare Survey 2021

Coram Family and Childcare’s 16th annual survey published today finds that there has been a 5% rise in costs since the survey was last carried out in 2019. The average place at a holiday club now costs £145 per week - more than double what parents pay for an after school club during term time.  

Alongside this financial strain, parents may also struggle to find the childcare they need, with only 33% of English local authorities reporting enough holiday childcare available for parents in their area who work full time. The report also reveals that a third (33%) of all local authorities in Britain have reported a decrease in the number of holiday childcare places available, potentially as a result of the pressures on the sector from Covid-19. This raises significant concerns about whether there will be enough childcare places if demand rises back to pre-pandemic levels in the coming months and echoes recent research by the TUC which found nearly two-thirds of working mothers do not have enough childcare for the school summer holidays.*  

The survey demonstrates considerable regional variation across Britain. This ‘postcode lottery’ means that parents in the South West are paying up to 19% more for holiday places than parents in the North West. The report also highlights extreme shortages in holiday childcare for disabled children, with only 16% of local authorities in England reporting that they have enough. Other notable gaps in England include holiday childcare for older children aged 12-14 and children living in rural areas with only 13% and 12% of local authorities respectively reporting they have enough childcare availability.  

Megan Jarvie, Head of Coram Family and Childcare, said: “As the country plans to rebuild from the pandemic, it is vital that children and young people are placed at the centre of this recovery. Holiday childcare will be crucial for giving children a safe and fun space to catch-up on lost learning and connect with peers – but this year more than ever parents are likely to struggle to find the childcare they need to be able to keep working and for their children to have fun and stay safe.  

“Rising costs and falling availability means that they are facing a double squeeze as they search for childcare they can afford that meets their needs. Without action to make sure there is affordable out of school childcare for every child who needs it, we are at risk of seeing parents – and mothers in particular – struggle to keep working.” 

The Holiday Childcare Survey 2021 sets out actions that the Scottish, Welsh and UK governments can take to fix the problems in the system: 

  • Include out of school childcare within pandemic recovery planning, given its vital role around helping children to catch up on lost learning and supporting parents to work. 
  • As part of the evaluation of the Holiday Activities and Food programme, consider the role that this funding could have to improve access to affordable, high quality childcare and feed this learning into future funding. 
  • Move to upfront payments for the childcare element of Universal Credit so that it offers comparable support to families claiming Tax Free Childcare. This will mean that parents can get the support they need to be able to pay the higher childcare costs during school holidays. 
  • Make sure there is enough year-round childcare for every working family that needs it, including school age children. Governments should prioritise the groups that currently face the biggest shortages: children in rural areas, 12 to 14 year olds and disabled children.  

Read the full report