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Child care parents 'better off at home' [GB]

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Womack, Sarah
Publication Date: 
5 May 2004

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Child care is so expensive that some parents say they would be better off not working, says a report today by the national child-care charity.

The complex tax credit system stops many mothers making a claim while those living in expensive places such as London who do claim the benefit say the amount they receive makes no impact, says the Daycare Trust.

The trust's report, Talking About Childcare, comes at a time when children's early years have never been so high up the political agenda.

The Government has invested significant amounts into its national child-care strategy, which includes help for working parents with child-care costs and early education places for all three- and four-year-olds.

But families still miss out, saying they do not know what is available, there is not enough on offer and, "if you haven't got a car, you're stuck".

Mothers of young children who would like to work cannot afford to because quality child care is too expensive or it is not worth their while.

The report urges swift action and is particularly scathing about the tax credit system.

The tax credit system should be improved by raising the maximum which can be claimed by families with two or more children, increasing the percentage of child-care costs covered by tax credit and reducing the hours a second earner in a couple needs to work to qualify for the child-care element of the working tax credit.

"Bad publicity affects parents' views and their perception of child minders. A school setting or other maintained setting is more likely to be trusted than privately provided child care." Parents still found it difficult to get information about their child-care options.

They did not know where to find out about local child-care services and only three per cent had heard of their local Children's Information Service. Stephen Burke, the director of the Daycare Trust, said: "Parents are sending a very clear message. They want quality, affordable child care to help them work or train."

- reprinted from Telegraph News