Appendix B Summary of Parent/Carer Consultation Events
Engagement with parents and carers
Through our face-to-face consultation events, we gained important insight into the needs of particular types of families and the challenges some parents currently face in accessing school age childcare. These small focus groups took the form of informal conversations where participants could share their experiences of school age childcare, the barriers they face and their ideas for improving things in the future. We made efforts to meet with groups of parents and carers who typically find access to childcare more difficult including parents living with low-income, parents of disabled children, parents living in rural areas, and lone parents.
We worked with local organisations and local authorities to identify and connect with groups of parents who would be interested in speaking to us and sharing their experience and views on school age childcare. In the Possilpark area of Glasgow we held two events, engaging with a total of 10 parents. At a further two events we met with 7 lone parents and 2 parents of a child with a disability, also living in Glasgow. In Shetland, we met with 4 parents in the Sandwick area.
Families living with low income
We spoke with parents living with low income, including lone parents, who shared with us the barriers that they face in accessing suitable services, and the impact this has on their lives and ability to work, earn and provide opportunities for their children.
All the parents we spoke to acknowledged the importance of school age childcare in impacting their ability to enter into and sustain employment. Without support around the school day, parents described struggling to find jobs that fit around their caring responsibilities. For many of these parents, the barriers to childcare, including lack of provision and the cost of childcare, trapped them in a vicious cycle; unable to find jobs that fit within the school day and unable to afford childcare without having a job.
The conversation highlighted that waiting lists at after school clubs are difficult for parents seeking work. One parent's local after school club had a year-long waiting list and when her daughter was finally offered a place, she didn't have a job so couldn't afford to accept the place. At a later date when she had found suitable job options, her daughter was back on the waiting list for the after school club so she couldn't take up employment. Other parents faced a complete lack of childcare options in their local area.
"There's no after school care where I stay, hence why after seven years I'm still looking for work."
The cost of school age childcare was prohibitive for many of the families living with low-income we spoke to. Parents said that childcare is often too expensive to pay for, especially when they are looking for the part-time hours that they need to fit with other caring duties. Some parents noted that it's particularly hard to pay for childcare while transitioning from being unemployed into employment.
Parents were aware that they could be entitled to claim back a proportion of their childcare costs through Tax Credits or Universal Credit but this didn't necessarily provide a solution for them.
"The 70 or 80% isn't enough – it's still a big portion of your wages to spend on childcare."
Several parents felt that the benefits system doesn't support them and said that their experience of finding work and being able to take it up really depends on having a work-coach who is understanding of their situation and the need for childcare. Some parents also said that Universal Credit was difficult to navigate and that accessing entitlements was extremely stressful.
"I was petrified of Universal Credit and going to the job centre."
Parents were also aware of the "hidden costs of working" and felt it was unfair that they might lose support with childcare costs if they work hard to increase their income.
"Sometimes two parents are working and there's thresholds for income deciding what help you get, so you end up paying more. But if you're going to work to better yourself it doesn't make sense to pay out so much on extortionate childcare."
Some parents had been or were currently students and received funded childcare places in after school clubs to enable them to study. These parents said that they wouldn't be able to, or would struggle to afford school age childcare without support from their education institutions. Some of these parents were worried about being able to afford childcare after they graduate.
"Even if you want to work, you need to think about part-time only, otherwise all your money will go on childcare."
Parents also discussed facing challenges in finding childcare provision that was flexible enough to meet their needs. They pointed to the fact that services which finish at 6pm and operate only on weekdays don't help with childcare for jobs that require irregular shift patterns and evening/weekend working. Lone parents in particular said that it was crucial that childcare services which cite flexibility really mean it and are reliable.
Some of the parents used local youth clubs or drop-in activity clubs for their children. While the parents said that the activities on offer were good and something that their children enjoyed, they didn't feel they could rely on them for childcare because of the drop-in nature. They want services that they can rely on to look after their children and accept full responsibility for them when they are not around.
Parents were also concerned with their children's needs, and being able to give them opportunities to take part in activities that they enjoy. They said that it would be good if their children could attend clubs that focussed on particular activities they were interested in, such as football or drama, but many said that these activities were too expensive for them.
"They'd be better in some sort of dancing or gymnastics but I don't have the money."
Those with older children, in the early years of secondary school, said that they would like more choice in after school and summer activities. They said that they would feel happier if their older children had somewhere they could go, rather than being on their own if their parent was working. They had concerns about them not having someone to help if they needed it.
"It would be good to have something until they are at least 14, it would make things much easier if there were more things he could go to after school as well. They're too young to be on their own when they start high school."
Parents said that services based in their local communities are best but some felt that there is little communication between local organisations and that things could be much better if they worked together and co-ordinated services more.
While parents all recognised childcare as a barrier to work, they also highlighted the fact that employers also have an important role to play in making work more flexible and family-friendly.
Families with a disabled child or child with ASN
Shared Care Scotland published their report Holidays or Isolation: Research into holiday activity provision for disabled children and young people in Scotland, which consulted with disabled children and young people, parent carers, service providers and local authorities. Some of its key findings include:
- Disabled children and young people acknowledged they have low level of contact with their peers and expressed concerns about becoming bored and losing contact with their friends;
- Disabled children and young people acknowledged the reality of holidays spent mainly with family, with the aspiration of being a young person in the company of friends;
- Parent carers noted that the main carer (99%) during the holidays, is overwhelmingly the mother;
- Parent carers recognised that many disabled children and young people lack a wider network of peer relationships, and this is particularly evident during the longer break;
- Parent carers experienced two main challenges over the summer holidays:
- The continuous demands on their time negatively impacted their own mental health, and;
- Many had to reconsider their employment status in order to care for their child, often with knock-on financial consequences.
We spoke to parents of disabled children who use school age childcare services as part of our consultation events, including attending an ASN-focused out of school care setting in the east end of Glasgow. These parents highlighted the importance of specialist school age childcare for children with ASN so that they can broaden their already limited social circles. Parent carers also stressed the impact services had on their children's confidence in enabling them to try new things and act independently away from their families. Families told us that the school age childcare settings were typically the only peer engagement their children had, other than school, and that there was increasingly less services available for children to attend, which is having an impact on young people with ASN's lives.
"He doesn't go anywhere without us so he doesn't get the confidence to know it'll be ok and that he can have fun."
In order to tackle isolation, parents said that it was important that school age childcare services allowed their children to engage in the wider community, explore their local areas and develop the confidence needed for as independent a life as possible.
"It's about life skills – communication skills, friendships…"
Parents generally spoke about valuing the people skills of the staff at services more than their formal qualifications. A minimum of knowing how to handle emergency situations was expected, but they were clear that a friendly, caring personality was more important.
Families living in remote rural areas
As noted in the proposed National Islands Plan, lack of childcare provision in island communities is a key obstacle to encouraging young families to the islands and, in turn, to promoting sustainable economic development.
We held a consultation event with parents in Shetland where we heard about the particular challenges with childcare provision in their communities. This group of parents told us about the challenges they face in accessing employment where they have limited or no access to after school and holiday childcare for their children. In some cases, as in the island community of Yell, complete lack of childcare has led to families having to move away from the island. Elsewhere in Shetland we heard about inequality of access to school age childcare services between communities and challenges with public transport systems that don't enable access to childcare or activities after school. Parents told us that the barriers to accessing childcare have wider implications for the communities they live in, with people forced to move or otherwise be unable to work due to lack of support.
"There's no infrastructure here to support families and there's a drive to get people coming to Shetland but they won't stay if there's no support for families."
As with the rest of Scotland, parents of children with disabilities and additional support needs described facing additional barriers in accessing school age childcare. Some parents told us that they rely on family members or friendship networks to cover childcare, but that this can be unreliable and stressful to manage, sometimes making it difficult for them to access the hours or type of employment they would like.
"It's women that this affects. I came to a point where I felt like I had to give up my job but I've worked really hard for that."
Though there are a range of activity and sports clubs available for school age children in Shetland, lots of these opportunities are delivered in the evenings and run by volunteers which means that they don't help families with childcare needs around the school day. Parents also told us that it was important to have reliable, local childcare options that enabled them enough time to travel to and from work. In these rural communities it was deemed important that childcare provision catered for a range of ages, to give parents the time they needed for work and other commitments.
"It's hard if you've got a mix of ages [of children] to find something they can all go to. You might spend 30 minutes driving around and dropping off to lots of different places."