Seven out of ten employed women with dependent children have to use informal childcare by friends, neighbours or family for all or part of their childcare, according to a new report by charities Daycare Trust and One Parent Families.
With the UK providing only one formal childcare place for every five children under the age of eight, and a typical nursery place for a child under two costing £128 a week, the charities have called on the government to acknowledge that the majority of childcare currently takes place in informal settings and enhance schemes to allow relatives and informal carers to register as childcare providers.
And they warn that the availability of grandparents and other informal carers is likely to decrease as families live at greater distances from each other and as more grandparents continue to work.
The value of informal childcare undertaken by grandparents in the UK has been estimated at over £1 billion a year.
“Informal childcare is an issue that can’t be ignored,” said Stephen Burke, Director of Daycare Trust. “The vast majority of families use some form of informal childcare during a child’s lifetime.
“The Government needs to acknowledge the key role of informal carers in this country, and enable informal carers to register. A network of children’s centres through the country would be an ideal way to support, encourage and enhance the opportunities and resources for those informal carers not working in formal childcare settings."
Kate Green, Director of One Parent Families, said: “For many lone parents informal childcare is the glue enabling them to hold together their work and family responsibilities. Whether it is used exclusively or as a top-up for registered schemes, informal care can give hard-pressed working parents the flexibility they require.
"It is time the Government addressed parents' needs by bringing informal care within the scope of the National Childcare Strategy and developing a system of accreditation and registration for friends and relatives who are looking after children."