Eighty per cent of families are not using any form of external financial childcare assistance.

So comes the latest alarm, in a press release along with helpful advice to families as to how they can rectify this, from ‘Woke Research Inc’ otherwise known as Yoopies, an online ‘home-care’ platform. 

This claim may well bewilder those who are constantly reading reports like this on the unaffordability of childcare and how cash-strapped families are racking up thousands of pounds of credit card debt to pay for it.

The new technique of ‘woke research’ which we highlighted yesterday in TCW, has thrown some speculative light on this discrepancy. It is due to the stigma that is attached to claiming benefits, the complexity of the claiming process and the lack of awareness of the help available.

But at the source of this unlikely sounding figure, the Department for Education’s ‘Childcare and Early Year’s Survey of Parents in England 2018’, we found this revelation: ‘Parents who had not used any childcare in the past year (neither formal nor informal) tended not to use childcare out of choice, [my italics] rather than due to constraints. Specifically, over three in five (63 per cent) parents not using childcare said they would rather look after their children themselves, while the affordability of childcare was less likely to be mentioned (9 per cent).’ You can find that piece of information on Page 6 here. 

Elsewhere in the report it adds: ‘Among families who used formal childcare in the reference week, 21% reported that they received financial assistance from at least one external source… Parents were most likely to receive support from their employer (13%)’. Was this then the source of Yoopie’s inflated figure?  We decided to call the DfE regardless to get to the bottom of this baffling paragraph. Their reply by email clarified matters – the percentages calculated covers all children from 0 -14 years old they explained. So of course the majority the parents with children in full time school are not receiving financial assistance – that is children between four and fourteen.

On the possibility that some families of infants are not claiming this conditional benefit because they prefer to look after their children themselves, woke research shows no curiosity. It seems unable to imagine that despite all those childcare entitlements to encourage mums with babes back to work early, there are still some who’d rather be harder up and at home for their family.

Needless to say, the encouragement given by government to take up their third party-only child care bungs has succeeded – according to the DfE some ’95 per cent of four-year-olds, 92 per cent of three-year-olds, and 72 per cent of eligible two-year-olds benefited from funded childcare or early education’.

How they might have benefited better from more home care, the DfE does not stop to consider.

For Yoopies, who share this world view of the gains of childcare, it seems that more help is never enough. Not, at least, until every infant is in childcare and every woman in paid work: ‘Despite the various benefits schemes helping to save up to £15,000 per year on childcare costs, most families working full time might still need to spend several thousands of pounds per year to make up for extra childcare hours. This can amount to up to 15 per cent of the household income of a minimum wage family, which raises some questions about whether the number of hours being covered is sufficient.’

What the State should be doing, they may as well say, is cover 100 per cent of childcare costs – transfer cash to families with young children to place them in childcare so all mothers can work full time.

But what about the downside? Where is the comment on that? Where is the magic money tree? Is this what mothers – and indeed their babies and children – really want? 

The cash transferred comes from other people, who also have bills to pay. It comes from high business rates (or slowly it doesn’t, because people are put off going into business). It comes from high stamp duty from those with families struggling to buy homes. It comes from parents’ wages, which fall as taxes rise, increasingly requiring both to go out to work . . . the squeezed middle whose genuine childcare choices become ever more proscribed.

And what about the children, their needs and welfare, which never get so much as a mention? Might not young children be better off spending more, rather than less, time in the care of their parents and family? The evidence on the downsides of daycare has been around for quite a time, while the idea that childcare is no panacea for society’s ills is finally penetrating the consciousness of a few. 

But it’s going to take a mammoth cultural shift to get the mighty and all-providing State, the ever-growing army of woke researchers within reach of the internet and the universe of research, to spend less time obsessing about child care costs and more time exploring, researching, understanding and extolling the benefits of home life, of mothers being at home for their children. And how that would-be choice of so many parents might be incentivised for a change.

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