A paper examined the impact of early grandparents' care on children's cognitive outcomes in the short and medium term, drawing on data from the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study, and considered how the results compared for children from more or less advantaged backgrounds.
Source: Daniela Del Boca, Daniela Piazzalunga, and Chiara Pronzato, Early Child Care and Child Outcomes: The role of grandparents – evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study, Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic Economics (University of Torino)
A report outlined key learning points from the trials of childminder agencies, which were announced by the government in 2013 with the aim of: encouraging more childminders to enter the market; providing support, training, and development for childminders; improving the quality of childminding provision; and helping parents to find a high quality provider.
Source: Hannah Yates, Andrew Ward, and David Duffett, Childminder Agency Trials: Key learning points for organisations setting up a childminder agency, Research Report 365, Department for Education
A think-tank report examined the lives of London's modest earners (defined as those earning below average levels, but above the level at which they became entitled to benefits). It said that around one in five households in the city fell into this category, often working in essential jobs but increasingly finding it difficult to remain, owing to the cost of living. The report drew on examples from other countries, and concluded that there was a need to improve living conditions for this group through increasing incomes, reducing the cost of living for households earning between £20,000 and £43,000 (in areas such as housing costs, transport, and childcare), and creating social improvement districts to co-ordinate efforts. A second report provided findings from quantitative analysis that had informed the main report.
Source: Charles Leadbeater, Brell Wilson, and Margarethe Theseira, Hollow Promise: How London fails people on modest incomes and what should be done about it, Centre for London
Source: Margarethe Theseira, Changing Income and Spending Behaviours of London Households, Centre for London
A report provided the findings of an independent review of childcare and early education registration, regulation, and inspection in Wales. The review concluded that historic development had led to an approach that was based on inspection of setting type rather than child need, and that this resulted in a complex and 'often inconsistent' system that had increased in complexity alongside changing policy approaches and social needs. The report made recommendations for change, taking a 'child first' approach and based on a simplification of the system via a single quality framework for early childhood education and care.
Source: Independent Review of Childcare and Early Education Registration, Regulation and Inspection, Welsh Government
A report examined the childcare market in England, and the 'levers' available to government in this policy area (such as direct provision of services, funding services provided by other sectors, and regulating the quality and conditions of provision), drawing on experience in Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and the United States of America to identify the strengths and weaknesses of how each lever was used in England. The report suggested reforms to funding and regulation to improve quality and affordability.
Source: Kitty Stewart and Ludovica Gambaro, World Class: What does international evidence tell us about improving quality, access and affordability in the English childcare market?, Resolution Foundation
The Welsh Government began consultation on the future development of childcare sufficiency assessments (CSAs) in Wales, in particular, how the CSA process and content of the assessments might be improved and made fit for purpose to meet the needs of all stakeholders with a vested interest in childcare. The consultation would close on 30 October 2014.
Source: Review of the Childcare Sufficiency Assessment Duty on Local Authorities, WG22735, Welsh Government
A report examined provision of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in 32 European countries, including the United Kingdom, providing data and comparative analysis on a range of issues including: access to ECEC; governance; quality assurance; affordability; qualifications and training among staff; leadership; parent involvement; and measures to support disadvantaged children. The report said that eight European countries (Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Malta, Slovenia, Finland, Sweden, and Norway) guaranteed a legal right to ECEC soon after a child's birth, while in all other countries the gap between the end of maternity/parental leave and legal entitlement to ECEC was over two years. It said that provision of quality ECEC was affected in many countries by lack of funding, staff shortages, qualifications levels of employees, and an absence of educational guidelines for teachers and other staff. Provision, staffing requirements, and fee levels varied across Europe and, for children under three, fees were highest in Ireland, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland (countries with high levels of private provision). Although most countries offered some means-tested financial support, children from disadvantaged families had lower ECEC participation rates. The report included summaries of existing provision and fees for each country.
Source: European Commission, EACEA, Eurydice, and Eurostat, Key Data on Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe: 2014 edition, European Union
A report examined findings from a cross-party inquiry into the provision of childcare for children with disabilities. It said that: 41 per cent of families with disabled children aged three and four were unable to access their full free entitlement to childcare and early years education, due to a chronic lack of appropriate settings or lack of funding; 86 per cent of parent carers who responded to a survey reported paying above average childcare costs; childcare problems had caused 72 per cent of families to reduce or give up work; the situation worsened as children got older; and local authorities, nurseries, and schools were unclear about their duties towards provision for children with disabilities. The report called for all parties to commit to developing appropriate provision for all children.
Source: Levelling the Playing Field for Families with Disabled Children and Young People, Parliamentary Inquiry into Childcare for Disabled Children
A report examined what worked in delivering high-quality early childhood education and care, and in supporting children (and their parents) from all backgrounds to grow and develop. It said there was a need for greater clarity of purpose from central government and that policy should be developed to reduce the inequalities in children's outcomes, develop the early years profession, provide greater support for family income in the early years through increased entitlement to early years education, and support the home learning environment.
Source: Janet Grauberg (ed.), Early Years: Valuable ends and effective means, CentreForum
A special issue of a journal examined early childhood services for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in Europe.
Source: European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, Volume 22 Issue 3
Links: Table of contents
Notes: Articles included:
Paul Leseman and Pauline Slot, 'Breaking the cycle of poverty: challenges for European early childhood education and care'
Alice Bradbury, 'Learning, assessment and equality in Early Childhood Education (ECE) settings in England'
Eva Lloyd and Helen Penn, 'Childcare markets in an age of austerity'
The government published its response to a consultation on the design and implementation of a new scheme for tax-free childcare, announced in the 2013 Budget.
Source: Tax-Free Childcare: The government's response to the consultation on childcare account provision, HM Treasury
An article examined the literature on young children's learning at home and in early childhood settings, to examine three key areas of practice: play-based activities and routines; support for communication and language; and opportunities to move and be physically active. It found the literature on effective practice to be sparse, and called for the evidence base to be strengthened using a multi-source approach.
Source: Sandra Mathers, Kathy Sylva, Naomi Eisenstadt, Elena Soukakou, and Katharina Ereky-Stevens, 'Supporting early learning for children under three: research and practice', Journal of Children's Services, Volume 9 Number 2
A report said that, despite recent policy initiatives, many parents still cited childcare as a barrier to work, many children were not receiving quality early years education, and the options available to low-income families and those who worked evening, weekends, or unreliable hours were considerably narrow and often involved compromising on quality. Particular issues included: upfront costs (payment in advance and deposits); limited flexibility to change childcare arrangements; and payment schedules (with higher quality providers being more likely to require monthly payments and less likely to offer flexibility). The report considered the policy implications, and made a range of recommendations.
Source: The Practicalities Of Childcare: An overlooked part of the puzzle?, Citizens Advice
The Childcare Payments Bill was given a second reading. The Bill was designed to introduce tax relief on qualifying childcare costs, up to a maximum value of £2,000 per year for each child. The scheme would replace some existing tax and national insurance reliefs that had been previously provided for childcare.
Source: Childcare Payments Bill, HM Treasury, TSO | Debate 14 July 2014, columns 604-641, House of Commons Hansard, TSO
A think-tank report examined how the United Kingdom might develop a universal, high-quality, and affordable system of childcare and early years provision that would promote higher employment rates for parents, reduce early childhood inequalities, and enhance gender equality. Recommendations included: an extension of universal early years entitlement to 15 hours per week, 48 weeks per year, from the age of two; a framework of affordable childcare for working families, funded through reforms to existing tax credits and reliefs; improvements to the quality of childcare and early learning, and a highly qualified early years profession; and reforms to parental leave entitlements. The report also called for a greater focus on public funding of provision, rather than on cash transactions between the state and families.
Source: Dalia Ben-Galim, with Nick Pearce and Spencer Thompson, No More Baby Steps: A strategy for revolutionising childcare, Institute for Public Policy Research
The Childcare Payments Bill was published. The Bill was designed to introduce tax relief on qualifying childcare costs, up to a maximum value of £2,000 per year for each child. The scheme would replace some existing tax and national insurance reliefs that had been previously provided for childcare.
Source: Childcare Payments Bill, HM Revenue & Customs, TSO
A report said that a survey of childcare professionals found that most did not support planned changes to childcare in England, including plans to encourage more schools to take two-year-olds, implement childminder agencies, and introduce baseline assessments at the start of reception. The report said that there were concerns over the sustainability of free childcare offers, with fewer than 1 in 5 childcare providers (19 per cent) having said that they received enough funding to cover the cost of providing free places for three- and four-year-olds, and under one-third (32 per cent) reporting enough funding to cover the cost of providing two-year-olds' places. The research was ongoing, with further work intending to examine pay and conditions in the sector, parents' views, and the costs of providing free entitlement.
Source: Shannon Hawthorne, Early Years Agenda: Interim report, Pre-school Learning Alliance
A report examined childcare policy in the United Kingdom since the publication of the 2004 childcare strategy. It said that, while much had been done, there were still key access, quality, and affordability issues, as well as complex funding mechanisms and disjointed policy-making. The report called on government to develop a new childcare strategy to develop a unifying vision for policy, based on an independent review of childcare funding
Source: Adam Butler, Duncan Lugton, and Jill Rutter, Where Next for Childcare? Learning from the last ten years of childcare policy, Family and Childcare Trust
The Queen's Speech set out the United Kingdom coalition government's legislative programme for 2014-15. It included plans for a Childcare Payments Bill to introduce tax relief on qualifying childcare costs, up to a maximum value of £2,000 per year for each child.
Source: Queen's Speech, 4 June 2014, columns 1-4, House of Commons Hansard, TSO
Links: Hansard | Prime Ministers Office briefing | Cabinet Office guidance | PMO/DPMO press release | NI Office press release | Scotland Office press release | Wales Office press release | 4Children press release | Childrens Society press release | Contact a Family press release | NUT press release | PACEY press release | Scottish Government press release | TUC press release | BBC report | Guardian report | Telegraph report
A report examined the number of primary schools in England that offered out of school childcare during term time and during the school holidays.
Source: TNS BMRB, Primary Schools Providing Access to out of School Care: Research report, Department for Education
A report brought together the core findings from a series of six short statistical reports about the reconciliation of work, private, and family life in Europe. It said that the work had highlighted large gender disparities in employment situations between parents and non-parents, with lower employment levels, fewer work hours, and more underemployment among mothers in many western European countries, as compared with women without children and men with or without children. The work had also found persistent inequality among social groups, that certain groups such as single parents were more vulnerable to the challenges of work-life balance, and that long-standing social and cultural norms played a role in perpetuating gender inequality in employment. The report said that there were large differences between European Union member states in levels of, and support for, employment, and that, although the situation varied between countries, childcare and cultural norms regarding children were still important factors in employment decisions. The report concluded that there had not generally been a move away from the 'male breadwinner' model, and said that the findings illustrated the importance of recognizing the heterogeneity among groups (of women, men, parents, or non-parents), the importance of considering gender roles and cultural norms, and a need for work-life reconciliation policies targeting vulnerable groups. The supporting work was published as a series of annexes, alongside this report.
Source: Melinda Mills, Flavia Tsang, Patrick Prag, Kai Ruggeri, Celine Miani, and Stijn Hoorens, Gender Equality in the Workforce: Reconciling work, private and family life in Europe – final report, RAND Europe
Annex 1: Melinda Mills, Patrick Prag, Flavia Tsang, Katia Begall, James Derbyshire, Laura Kohle, Celine Miani, and Stijn Hoorens, Use of Childcare Services in the EU Member States and Progress Towards the Barcelona Targets: Short Statistical Report No. 1, RAND Europe
Annex 2: Celine Miani and Stijn Hoorens, Parents at Work: Men and women participating in the labour force – Short Statistical Report No. 2, RAND Europe
Annex 3: Kai Ruggeri and Chloe Bird, Single Parents and Employment in Europe: Short Statistical Report No. 3, RAND Europe
Annex 4: Melinda Mills and Patrick Prag, Gender Inequalities in the School-to-Work Transition in Europe: Short Statistical Report No. 4, RAND Europe
Annex 5: Flavia Tsang, Michael Rendall, Charlene Rohr, and Stijn Hoorens, Emerging Trends in Earnings Structures of Couples in Europe: Short Statistical Report No. 5, RAND Europe
Annex 6: Patrick Prag and Melinda Mills, Family-Related Working Schedule Flexibility across Europe: Short Statistical Report No. 6, RAND Europe
A report provided findings from the Focus on Enforcement review of the early years childcare sector in England, which examined the impact of regulatory delivery by national and local regulators for childminders, nurseries, and pre-schools for children in the early years age group. The review led to a range of changes being made by Ofsted.
Source: Review of Enforcement in the Childcare Sector, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
A report examined whether early years settings and schools serving 3-4 year old children in England offered comparable quality to all children, and which kinds of providers were most able to offer good quality in disadvantaged areas. It said that: government-maintained schools (state provision) located in disadvantaged areas offered a comparable or higher quality of provision for disadvantaged children than schools serving more advantaged children; the quality of non-state provision for 3-4 year olds was lower in settings located in disadvantaged areas, in settings with more disadvantaged user-bases, and in services attended by individual children from disadvantaged backgrounds (although some aspects such as the physical environment, care routines, and health and safety practices were of comparable quality for all children); the qualification level of staff had an impact in some settings; and that it was most difficult to achieve good provision in schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged children. The report made a range of recommendations.
Source: Sandra Mathers and Rebecca Smees, Quality and Inequality: Do three and four-year-olds in deprived areas experience lower quality early years provision?, Nuffield Foundation
A report examined the impact of child-targeted interventions in early childhood education and care (ECEC) and initiatives to widen access to higher education in Europe, and their impact on social mobility in later years. It said that, in the context of economic uncertainty, high-quality ECEC appeared to be an effective evidence-based social policy tool, but was not a panacea. The report recommended the development of indicators and policy goals that linked ECEC provision for underrepresented groups with access to higher education.
Source: Benoit Guerin, Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage: Early childhood interventions and progression to higher education in Europe, RAND Europe
The government began consultation on proposals to make changes to the provision of early education and childcare as a result of measures in the Children and Families Bill (awaiting Royal assent). The consultation asked for views on the introduction of childminder agencies, and on new draft regulations. The consultation would close on 22 May 2014.
Source: Childminder Agencies and Changes to the Local Authority Role, Department for Education
The Children and Families Act 2014 was given Royal assent. The Act provided for (among other things): reform of the adoption system; the introduction of greater flexibility in parental leave arrangements; reform of the system of special educational needs; strengthening the role of the children's rights watchdog; reduction in delays in the family justice system; and reduction in regulation of the childcare sector.
Source: Children and Families Act 2014, Department for Education, TSO
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 was given Royal assent. The Act provided for additional, funded early learning and childcare, for every child and young person to have a named person from birth responsible for safeguarding their well-being, for the extension of the upper age limit for young people leaving care, and for kinship carers to be provided with more support from local authorities.
Source: Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, Scottish Parliament, TSO
The coalition government presented its 2014 Budget statement. National income growth forecasts had been revised upwards from 2.4 per cent to 2.7 per cent in 2014 and from 2.2 per cent to 2.3 per cent in 2015, with forecasts of 2.6 per cent in 2016, 2.6 per cent in 2017 and 2.5 per cent in 2018. The public sector net debt had been revised downwards, to peak at 78.7 per cent of national income in 2015-16 before falling year on year to 2018-19. The main Budget measures included:
Government departments required to find year on year efficiency savings, with cuts of £119 billion in 2015-16;
Welfare cap set at £119.5 billion for 2015-16 with year on year increases to 2018-19 (to be included in the Charter for Budget Responsibility);
Expansion of the Troubled Families programme in 2014-15;
Increase in childcare costs cap to £10,000 per annum per child, against which up to 20 per cent of costs could be claimed by parents, or 85 per cent if parents paid income tax and were on universal credit (this had been previously announced, but was confirmed in the Budget);
Additional early years premium funding for schools (this had been previously announced, but was confirmed in the Budget);
Increase in personal tax allowance to £10,500 from 2015 and increase in National Minimum Wage to £6.50 in October 2014;
New ISA provisions, with an increase in the annual limit to £15,000; new government savings bonds for over 65s; increased limits for Premium Savings Bonds; proposed removal of the requirement for defined contribution pension funds to be converted to annuities; and changes to taxation of pensions (a consultation paper on pensions was published alongside the Budget);
Doubling of the annual investment allowance for companies, changes to export funding, and additional funding for apprenticeships;
Energy-related measures, including: changes to the carbon price support cap; support for carbon capture and storage, oil, and gas initiatives; and compensation for energy costs for energy intensive industries;
Infrastructure measures, including: funding for repairs to flood defences and roads; government guarantee for the Mersey Gateway Bridge; funding via a gain share mechanism for Greater Cambridge transport and infrastructure proposals; and grants for cathedral repairs; and
Housing measures, including: extension of the Help to Buy equity loan scheme to March 2020; loans for smaller developers and a repayable funding scheme for self-build; loan funding for regeneration of large housing estates; and a new garden city at Ebbsfleet, Kent (this had been previously announced, but was confirmed in the Budget).
Source: Budget 2014, HC 1104, HM Treasury, TSO
Links related to Budget: Report | Fiscal outlook | Overview of taxation measures | Speech | Pensions consultation | HMT press release 1 | HM Treasury press release 2 | DCLG press release | Northern Ireland Office press release | Scotland Office press release | Wales Office press release | Welsh Government press release | 4Children press release | Age UK press release | Action for Children press release | Barnardos press release | BCC press release | Childrens Society press release | CPAG press release | CPAG Scotland press release | CIH press release | Fawcett Society press release | Gingerbread press release | IEA press release | IFS analysis | LGA press release 1 | LGA press release 2 | LGA press release 3 | Oxfam press release | Plaid Cymru press release | PwC press release | RCGP press release | Unite press release | BBC report 1 | BBC report 2 | Guardian report 1 | Guardian report 2 | Guardian report 3 | Inside Housing report | Inside Housing report 2 | New Statesman report | Telegraph report
Links related to childcare and pupil premium announcements: Government consultation response | Written ministerial statement | Barnardos press release | Citizens Advice press release | CBI press release | Gingerbread press release | IFS comment | JRF press release | NCT press release | BBC report | Guardian report | New Statesman report | Telegraph report
A report examined the characteristics, circumstances, and experiences of first-time mothers in Scotland aged under 20, examining how they compared with those of older mothers. The report said that the data re-confirmed that this younger group faced significant socio-economic disadvantage in terms of lower educational qualifications, employment levels, and income, but that they were also affected in other ways, such as having less stable partner relationships, poorer health behaviours and health outcomes, and lower levels of engagement with formal parenting support. It said that these inequalities might be addressed through additional support, including wider access to affordable childcare, to help young parents (including those in their early 20s) to continue their education or training, or to enter employment.
Source: Paul Bradshaw, Lauren Schofield, and Linda Maynard, The Experiences of Mothers Aged Under 20: Analysis of data from the Growing Up in Scotland study, Scottish Government
A think-tank report examined the factors behind maternal employment in the United Kingdom, particularly the role of childcare. It said that many mothers wanted to work or increase their working hours, but childcare, or the lack of flexibility in the work that was available, formed significant barriers. It said that there was a need for: more affordable childcare for children under the age of two, in particular to enable low-skilled parents and lone parents to enter, or re-enter, employment; the expansion of affordable childcare for three and four year olds, and for families where mothers were already in work, to enable increased working hours; and a supply-funded system to support levels of provision and reduce costs to around 10 per cent of disposable income.
Source: Spencer Thompson and Dalia Ben-Galim, Childmind the Gap: Reforming childcare to support mothers into work, Institute for Public Policy Research
An article examined the recent development of childcare policy in the United Kingdom and considered the case for government intervention.
Source: Gillian Paull, 'Can government intervention in childcare be justified?', Economic Affairs, Volume 34 Issue 1
A report examined how to improve high quality childcare and the measures that would enable greater balance between paid and unpaid work. It made three key recommendations: that the pay levels for childcare workers should be tripled and the career structure improved; for employers to move towards a standard 30-hour week, to improve parents' work-life balance; and for universal provision of high quality childcare.
Source: Jacob Mohun Himmelweit, Anna Coote, and Juliette Hough, The Value of Childcare: Quality, cost and time, New Economics Foundation
A paper examined the determinants of inequalities in childcare coverage across 31 countries. It said that that coverage and supply, maternal employment, and well-paid parental leave schemes were associated with inequality in childcare coverage, and suggested policy responses.
Source: Wim Van Lancker and Joris Ghysels, Great Expectations, But How to Achieve Them? Explaining patterns of inequality in childcare use across 31 developed countries, Working Paper 13/05, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy (University of Antwerp)
The First Minister announced that free school meals would be available to all children in the first three years of primary school in Scotland, by January 2015. Also, free childcare places would become available for more families in receipt of a range of benefits, if Scotland became independent following the vote in September 2014.
Source: Scottish Parliament Debate 7 January 2014, columns 26122-23, Official Report, TSO
A survey examined the views of mothers with children under 10 on their preferences for work and their likely responses to hypothetical changes in childcare support. The report said that: one in five working mothers would like to work on average a further 10 hours a week; nearly 40 per cent of non-working mothers would like to work on average 23 hours a week; high child care costs were the greatest barrier to work for both working and non-working mothers; and employers' inflexibility was also a barrier for working mothers who want to increase their hours.
Source: Giselle Cory and Vidhya Alakeson, Careers and Carers: Childcare and maternal labour supply, Resolution Foundation
The inspectorate for education and children's services began consultation on proposals for the inspection of childminder agencies. The consultation would close on 21 March 2014.
Source: Inspecting Childminder Agencies: A consultation document, HMI 130255, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills
Links: Consultation document