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Most parents plan to take up 30 hours free childcare

The Department for Education (DfE) has published research on parents’ views and demand for 30 hours free childcare, which will available to 3- and 4-year-olds of working parents from September 2017. Ipsos MORI interviewed 851 parents by telephone between 17 March and 13 April 2016 to find out whether they planned to take up the new extended entitlement, and how it would impact their work.

As in past surveys, including a recent survey from Ceeda, a large majority of parents interviewed said that they would use the additional 15 hours of free childcare if it was available to them.

Key findings from the report are summarised below.

Current childcare arrangements and use of 15 funded hours

  • Nearly all three and four-year-olds in the survey received some form of childcare with just over a third (35%) of these children receiving a mix of informal and formal childcare.

  • The majority of parents asked (88%) said they were aware of the existing government entitlement of 15 hours of free childcare, with 65% reporting they currently receive it. Out of these parents, 86% reported they use all 15 hours of the current entitlement.

Intentions to use the additional 15-hour entitlement

  • Of those currently using the free hours 83% said they would likely or would definitely take up the additional 15 hours of free childcare if they were available to them now.

  • Responses were similarly high for those that had been eligible in the past - 85% who said they would likely or would definitely have taken up these additional hours.

  • Of those who intend to use the existing free hours in the future when their child became potentially eligible, 82% would likely or would definitely take up additional hours.

  • Parents who said they would use the additional 15 free hours if these were available to them were asked why. The top reasons for using the additional hours included:

    • ‘The extra hours will cover the cost for the childcare I already pay for/ will reduce my childcare costs’ (29%)

    • ‘I can go back to work’ (26%)

    • ‘I can increase my working hours/ days (17%)

Expected impact of additional 15 hours on working

  • Forty-seven percent of respondents in work (64% of those interviewed) said they would change the number of hours they work in the week if they could use the additional 15 free hours. Of this group, 54% would increase the number of hours they worked in a week and 26% would work longer hours over fewer days.

  • Of those not in work (35% of those interviewed), 60% said they would likely or would definitely look for work to become eligible for the additional 15 hours of free childcare (21% definitely would, 27% very likely, 12% fairly likely).

  • Those parents in work were asked how likely or unlikely it would be that they would look for a more suitable job (i.e. one that met their needs in terms of salary, flexibility and working hours) if they were able to use the additional 15 free hours of childcare per week. 39% said they would likely or would definitely look for a more suitable job, whereas 51% said they would not (10% not very likely, 19% very unlikely and 21% definitely would not).

  • Out of all the 46% of parents who currently pay for childcare over the current free 15 hour entitlement for their three or four year old, 81% agreed (67% strongly agreed, 14% tend to agree) that the additional 15 free hours of childcare would significantly reduce the cost of childcare for their household. The majority of respondents who pay for childcare agreed (88% overall, with 71% strongly and 16% tend to agree) that they would use the additional 15 free hours towards the childcare that they currently pay for.

Using different childcare providers

  • Forty-five percent (24% strongly agreed, 21% tend to agree) of all respondents with two or more children aged 0-4 stated that they would use all or some of the additional 15 hours even if it meant their children had to go to different childcare providers (i.e from their sibling) with 38% disagreeing (12% tend to disagree, 26% strongly disagree).

  • Fifty-five percent of these parents interviewed agreed (39% strongly agreed 16% tend to agree) that they would use the additional 15 hours if they could use the same provider for all their children with 31% disagreeing (22% tend to disagree, 9% strongly disagree).

Read PACEY's FAQs on the 30-hour entitlement and early years funding