1 Big Lottery Fund Research Issue 24 Out of School Hours Childcare: lessons learnt and themes for the future 1
2 Out of School Hours Childcare: lessons learnt and themes for the future Stock code BIG-OSHCHILD ISSN (Print) ISSN (Online) Printer Taylor Bloxham Photographers Peter Devlin, Brian Morrison, Ged Murray & Bettina Skovbro Written by Sarah Cheshire with contributions from Anna Grey Further copies available from: Phone Textphone Our website Accessibility Also available upon request in other fomats including large print. Our equality principles Promoting accessibility; valuing cultural diversity; promoting participation; promoting equality of opportunity; promoting inclusive communities; reducing disadvantage and exclusion. Please visit our website for more information. We care about the environment The Big Lottery Fund seeks to minimise its negative environmental impact and only uses proper sustainable resources Our mission We are committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need. Our values We have identified seven values that underpin our work: fairness; accessibility; strategic focus; involving people; innovation; enabling; additional to government. The Big Lottery Fund is committed to valuing diversity and promoting equality of opportunity, both as a grantmaker and employer. The Big Lottery Fund will aim to adopt an inclusive approach to ensure grant applicants and recipients, stakeholders, job applicants and employees are treated fairly. Big Lottery Fund is the joint operating name of the New Opportunities Fund and the National Lottery Charities Board (which made grants under the name of Community Fund).
3 This report summarises the key findings from the evaluation of the Big Lottery Fund s Out of School Hours Childcare (OOSHC) programme and considers implications for future policy and practice. A more detailed description of the programme and the evaluation is given in the final report, which is available on our website. Key evaluation findings include: The programme has played a significant role in the expansion of childcare provision across the UK with over 555,000 places being created. There have been a number of economic and social benefits to the provision of extra out of school hours childcare, particularly for parents living in disadvantaged areas. Policy developments over the five-year period of the evaluation mean that the importance of and reliance on out of school hours childcare provision has grown. Clubs operating in disadvantaged areas face a number of barriers to creating viable and sustainable childcare provision. Measures need to be taken to ensure that childcare clubs are sustained and that the benefits of their groundwork are not lost. The Out of School Hours Childcare programme In 1999 the New Opportunities Fund launched its OOSHC programme which aimed to support the creation, development and long-term sustainability of childcare provision throughout the UK. It complemented the Government s National Childcare Strategy and its equivalents in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales which aimed to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of childcare for children aged 3-14 (up to 16 for children with special needs). Running through the strategy is the intention to tackle unemployment and labour market inactivity in poorer areas through the provision of childcare. In 2001, further funding was made available for this programme to mainly support providers who operate in areas of disadvantage and who face challenges regarding the sustainability of provision. The evaluation In 2000, we asked SQW Ltd in partnership with Brunel University to undertake an evaluation of the programme. The evaluation was completed in 2005 and this summary outlines the key findings from the final evaluation report. The evaluation focused on the sustainability of clubs, factors that influence take-up and use of new places, the impact of using the childcare club on parents and their children, and the perceived quality of the service. 3
4 What has the programme achieved? Creation of childcare places The Big Lottery Fund (BIG) has played a significant role in the expansion of childcare provision in the UK, with 555,340 places being created across the UK. The 2005 survey of childcare partnerships showed that 57 per cent of all out of school hours childcare providers currently operating have had some support from BIG, with 68 per cent of awards being used to open new provision. Increasing labour market participation In the short-term, the programme appeared to have limited impact on the key aim of assisting parents to gain entry to employment from being unemployed. However, findings do show that there were positive effects on the lives of parents and carers with 40 per cent of users responding to the survey identifying a positive change in their employment activity since using their club. The evaluation highlighted a number of broader economic and social benefits of the childcare provision, particularly to those in disadvantaged communities, for example: Helping unemployed/disadvantaged parents become ready for work. Parents using the clubs in areas of disadvantage with higher rates of unemployment appeared to benefit from the wider social benefits of the childcare, particularly respite care. The importance of these softer benefits should not be underestimated as the progression from labour market inactivity to participation in employment is slower in communities of disadvantage, and these softer benefits may be the vital first steps in building confidence and aspirations. Supporting and improving the working lives of employed parents. The programme has had a significant impact on enabling parents who were already in employment 4 to work longer hours, take up other employment opportunities, be more focused at work and achieve a better work life balance. These benefits were felt particularly strongly by lone parents and parents who had been using the provision for one to two years. Are these achievements sustainable? The funding has led to a robustness among childcare clubs with fewer closures than under previous childcare schemes. However, clubs, particularly in disadvantaged areas, demonstrated a need for additional grant funding if longer-term sustainability is to be achieved. Almost two-thirds of clubs included in the research reported that they would be looking to secure future grant funding if they were to continue operating. The evaluation has helped identify both factors crucial to the operation and success of projects, and the barriers to childcare partnerships and providers in delivering affordable, high quality and sustainable childcare. It is clear that many of the keys to success listed below are made easier by being sited in a more affluent area where childcare needs are high, and where parents can afford to pay. By the same token, the barriers to success are particularly acute in areas of disadvantage where a large proportion of the population is unemployed or facing major barriers to employment. As a result the need and ability to pay for childcare is much lower. Keys to success Hours of operation: after school provision appeared to be more viable than before school provision which often suffered from lower levels of take-up.
5 Scale: Clubs generally sought to offer at least 24 places due to the need for a staff/child ratio of 1:8 and the fact that a larger number of staff reduces vulnerability to staff illness or movement to other employers. Occupancy rate: At least 80 per cent occupancy was desirable for sustainability. Price: Income from parental fees was to be good enough to cover overheads if prices were charged at about 1.80 per hour. Full time places: Clubs benefited from a majority of parents paying full fees and using the provision on a regular basis. Premises: School based premises offered a range of advantages, including having a captive market and fewer transport issues. Business orientation: Clubs run as business ventures by managers with business skills were more viable. Predictably, areas of deprivation were far less likely to have childcare run as private providers or profit making businesses. Training and on-going support: Support from partnerships and other bodies in gaining access to business training and to general business advice, as well as information about funding options, seemed crucial to the operation and success of many clubs. Barriers to success Highly mobile workforce: The evaluation identified significant levels of movement of staff and managers within the sector. This had implications for the stability of care and the planning of services. Parents may be less willing to use and rely on a club if they feel there is a high turnover of staff and a lack of continuity of care, or if a club is unable to provide a full service because of shortages of staff. Shortages of skilled workers: In some areas there were shortages of skilled workers which could affect whether or not a club was able to open or expand, to run particular sessions, or even survive. Rural location: Rural clubs can face difficulties in attracting sufficient numbers of children to make the provision financially viable, locating the provision within a centrally accessible location and dealing with higher transport costs. Inability/reluctance to pay: Cost will clearly always be a consideration for parents choosing whether or not to use childcare provision. In this evaluation, parents claiming the working tax credit still found it difficult to justify the expense of out of school hours childcare. This may be partly because, in some areas, a history of heavy subsidisation of childcare and play schemes has skewed the wider market of this provision and created a culture in which parents do not believe they should pay. Complex childcare needs: Clubs faced more challenges when the majority of parents were using the provision part-time and on an irregular basis. In deprived areas, for example, there tended to be a high proportion of parents using the club for respite care which was often part time and heavily subsidised. Government funds not reaching the provider: Some providers expressed concern that the funds for the childcare element of the working tax credit, which were paid directly to the parent, often failed to reach the hands of the provider. 5
6 What next for out of school hours childcare? Many projects operating in disadvantaged areas are unlikely to be sustainable The programme aimed to develop childcare provision that would become sustainable once the funding had come to an end. In some cases this has occurred. However, in disadvantaged areas, there seems relatively few success stories as yet of clubs becoming financially sustainable. It is therefore difficult to escape the conclusion that provision in disadvantaged areas, continues to be dependent on securing future grant funding. The evaluation highlighted that overall the majority of providers could not envisage a time when they would be able to cover operation costs on parental fees alone and this issue is likely to become increasingly critical as costs rise in light of the introduction of additional standards and regulations to the sector. Important long-term benefits The findings from this evaluation further emphasise the importance of developing projects which are reliable and sustainable by highlighting the benefits to parents of regular and long-term use of childcare. Parents begin to feel the benefits of the childcare provision once they have been using the service for a significant length of time typically one or two years. This is when unemployed parents started to feel more work ready in terms of increased confidence and aspiration, and when employed parents started to notice improvement in their working lives. Growing demand for childcare places Policy developments that have occurred over the lifetime of the programme mean that the importance of and reliance on out of school hours childcare provision has grown. For example Children s Centres, 6 the Extended School provision and Integrated Community Schools all require that access is provided to childcare. At the same time there have been developments in the labour market, with projections of a significant rise in the level of future labour market demand which is likely to require even greater numbers of childcare places if that demand is to be met. Building on the programme s success The importance of sustainability and the difficulty clubs have had in achieving this means that policy makers need to think hard and fast about how more continued support might be provided to the many different clubs that have been relying on funding from this programme. If action is not taken quickly, many of these clubs will be unable to survive, and the benefits of their groundwork will be lost.
7 Issues to consider Management training and on-going support If projects are to become self-sustaining, training and on-going support from partnerships and other bodies will be crucial, particularly to projects in disadvantaged areas. Such support could include: access to business training general business advice information about how to identify funding opportunities advice about how to make successful applications for funding support during the application process. Within childcare partnerships and other local authority structures responsible for childcare development it is important that, with an increasing sense of priority and policy shift towards early years provision and the development of services, the importance of childcare provision and creation of places is not lost. Projects now more than ever need the support of development workers and partnership staff to help them make the transition from grant-supported provision to longer-term sustainability. Staff turnover and short-term funding opportunities mean that this support needs to be on-going. Childcare skills development The need for an increased skill base within the childcare sector has already been recognised. There are measures in place to address this which include the creation of a sector skills council for the children s workforce and funding to enable childcare providers to employ more staff at graduate level and train more childcare workers to achieve higher qualifications. These measures will improve staff retention, facilitate planning and improve the quality of care. Improving access to childcare A number of recent measures have been taken to make childcare more affordable to working parents including increasing from 70 per cent to 80 per cent the maximum amount of childcare costs that can be claimed under the childcare element of the working tax credit (effective from April 2006). However, as this evaluation demonstrates, measures to make childcare more affordable for working parents are likely to do little to address the needs of parents in disadvantaged areas who may be unemployed or facing major barriers to employment and for whom childcare provides respite care or might support a first vital step towards participation in employment or training. The benefits of respite care range from providing time out for a parent who is long-term sick, or provision to support children with special needs to socialise and play. More recognition needs to be given to the importance of providing respite care and provision to parents in disadvantaged areas. Funding of childcare provision While schemes in disadvantaged areas remain reliant to a large extent on money paid through the working tax credit, tighter controls need to be put in place to ensure that the increased funds paid directly to parents reach the project for which they are intended. Even with such controls in place, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that, in disadvantaged areas where the barriers to delivering affordable, high quality and sustainable childcare are more acute, some 7
8 funding will need to continue to be targeted directly towards the provider. New policies have been introduced (outlined in the final section) which mean that, although the OOSHC funding has come to an end, there are other potential sources of funding to replace it. However, it would be dangerous to assume that clubs funded under OOSHC will simply be able to make a smooth transition from one source of funding to another. Measures will need to be put in place to ensure that new initiatives use and build on the successes of this programme, ideally by directing new funds specifically towards them, but at the very least, by making sure that the existing projects are aware of new sources of funding and are given the opportunity (and help) to apply. Policy context Over the lifetime of this programme policy landscape for out of school hours childcare has shifted significantly. This final section provides specific information on the policy environment that childcare sits in for each of the four countries across the UK and the new policy developments that have emerged. England The Government s Every Child Matters: Change for children programme, launched in November 2004, focuses on the well-being of children and young people from birth to age 19. The vision is to create a joined-up system of health, family support, childcare and education services so that all children get the best start possible in the vital early years. Choice for parents, the best start for children: a 10 year strategy for childcare, which builds on this 8 programme, aims to create a sustainable framework for childcare provision and support to balance work and family life. The strategy identified four key principles that would seek to ensure that every child gets the best start in life, and to give parents more choice about how to balance work and family life. These key principles are as follows: choice and flexibility: parents to have greater choice about balancing work and family life availability: for all families with children aged up to 14 who need it, an affordable, flexible, high quality childcare place that meets their circumstances quality: high quality provision with a highly skilled childcare and early years workforce, among the best in the world affordability: families to be able to afford flexible, high quality childcare that is appropriate for their needs. The childcare bill, which is currently before Parliament, aims to take forward these key commitments from the 10 year strategy to help transform childcare and early years services in England. In addition, the bill formalises the important strategic role of local authorities through a set of new duties and also reforms and simplifies early years regulation and inspection arrangements. The bill's main provisions are planned to come into effect in As part of the strategy the Extended Schools initiative has been developed which aims to build on existing childcare provision in schools and provide a guarantee of childcare provision between 8am and 6pm all year round. All children should be able to access these services by 2010.
9 Northern Ireland The key policy framework for childcare in Northern Ireland is provided by 'Children First: policy statement for Northern Ireland' which was published in September This strategy aims to raise the quality of childcare, make it more affordable, and improve access to childcare. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has taken the lead in a comprehensive review of Children First (published in November 2005), which will contribute to the strategic future of early years and childcare in Northern Ireland. A Children and Young People Funding package worth 61 million, which forms part of the budget, was announced by the Department for Education and Skills in March It provides funding for extending the role of schools to become centres of the community by offering services and learning opportunities before and after the traditional school day such as breakfast clubs, after school study support and leisure activities. A range of actions/activities will be taken forward under six key themes: extended schools, extended early years provision, lookedafter children and vulnerable young adults, youth provision, child protection, and children with special needs and disabilities. An additional 14.6 million was also announced in March 2006 to help support voluntary and community groups in their work with disadvantaged children. A 10-year strategy for Children and Young People will set out what will be done across government for the next 10 years to achieve improved outcomes for all children and young people in Northern Ireland. The strategy will include strategic goals in key areas affecting children and young people and take into account the role of parents and families. It will also examine the scope for achieving a more joined-up approach within government to children's issues. The draft strategy was available for consultation between late 2004 and early The main strategy will be produced in early
10 The Scottish Executive continues to fund the creation of childcare places and sustainability of provision through its childcare strategy funding to local authorities. Scotland The Scottish Childcare Strategy: Meeting the Childcare Challenge was launched in 1998 and pledged to provide good quality, affordable childcare for children aged 0-14 in every neighbourhood by: raising the quality of care, making childcare more affordable and available, and making childcare more accessible by increasing places and improving information. The Scottish Executive took this forward by: establishing the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care, and new National Standards for Childcare to address the issue of quality introducing tax credits for childcare to ease some of the costs of childcare developing Childcare Partnerships to ensure that provision was brought into line with demand setting up a Childcare Information Service in every local authority area to address the lack of information about childcare provision. 10 In and , the Scottish Executive made 10 million per year available in 10 local authority areas to provide affordable, accessible childcare which enables parents in deprived areas or groups to access education, training or employment. This was extended to include another 10 local authority areas for and and an additional 15 million was made available. In addition, funding has also been give to the Childcare Poverty Action Group to run an initiative that provides support to agencies to provide accurate, high quality and effective advice and information to eligible claimants on Tax Credits and welfare rights. The Executive is investing nearly 25 million into workforce development between 2000 and 2006 to encourage early years and childcare staff to become qualified and undertake further training. A National Review of the Early Years and Childcare Workforce, which began in June 2004, aims to improve employment opportunities for staff and help raise the status of the sector. Scottish Ministers have reaffirmed their commitment to the Integrated (formerly New) Community School approach in "A partnership for a better Scotland" and have committed the Scottish Executive to roll out the approach to all schools in Scotland by The focus of integrated community schools is on the pupil and his or her family, addressing barriers to learning and the needs of the child through an integrated provision of services.
11 Wales The Assembly Government has developed policy around childcare since its creation in 1999 following the publication of the National Childcare Strategy. After a review of the strategy conducted in 2001 the Assembly published the Childcare Action Plan in In 2004 the Assembly formed a new Childcare Working Group which developed 77 recommendations which underlie the latest Childcare strategy, Childcare Is For Children, published in November The strategy looks at private, voluntary and state childcare, including through the medium of Welsh, to ensure better spread to meet needs across Wales. It aims to: tackle concerns by some parents about the patchy availability of childcare in Wales ensure that all childcare is widely available and affordable to enable parents to study, train or work, give parents flexibility and choice so they can balance family work and other commitments and supports the developmental needs of children. The Assembly will use the Childcare Bill to place a duty on local authorities in Wales to secure sufficient childcare within their areas, and also to ensure that parents have access to adequate information on childcare and other children s services. The aim is quality as well as quantity, using substantial funding through the Flying Start, Cymorth and European Structural Funds. The Assembly Government has secured 12.5 million, over three years, from European Structural Funds for childcare. Substantial resources have been committed for a unique programme of free childcare and family support through the "Flying Start" programme, which re-affirmed the seven core aims, derived from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. 11