More out of school clubs needed to fill childcare gap
The recent introduction of changes to benefit rules for single parents means that up to 68,000 new places for out of school care could be required.
The new regulations that came into force on 26 October mean that single parents whose youngest child is aged 10 or 11 are being transferred from Income Support to Jobseekers Allowance. Parents will now have to show that they are actively seeking work or else face benefit cuts. Gingerbread, the charity for single parents, estimates that 68,000 single parents will be affected by this most recent benefit change.
In a tight labour market, part-time work that fits around school hours is in short supply. To enable them to take advantage of more job opportunities, single parents will need to draw on before and after school childcare. However, the latest Ofsted quarterly statistics show that the number of registered childminders and childminding places is continuing to fall, with a decline in numbers for the 11th successive quarter.
So where are the extra 68,000 places for the children of single parents going to come from? The obvious solution would be for the childcare to be delivered via out of school clubs. However, despite the fact that all primary schools are supposed to be offering 'extended services'-which includes out of school care-by 2010, there is still some way to go in meeting this target in many areas.
Catherine Wrench of the Out of School Alliance, explained, "The provision of out of school clubs is very uneven across the country. Particularly in smaller schools and in rural areas, there may be no dedicated out of school care at all, with parents just being referred on to local childminders, many of whom are now pulling out of the business. Although government funding for out of school clubs has increased, it is not cascading down to the grass roots level quickly enough."
From 2011, lone parents with children aged 7 or over will also be moved onto Job Seekers Allowance, creating another potential surge in demand for out of school care places.
Catherine Wrench commented, "Without more effective support for the out of school care sector, parents are going to be caught between the conflicting demands of finding work and ensuring quality childcare for their primary-school aged children."
9 November 2009