A Childcare Revolution in Wales

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Almost one in three children in Wales live in poverty - some 200,000 under sixteen year-olds.The provision of childcare enables both parents to work and is an essential ingredient in the drive to eradicate child poverty. This report looks at the experiences of parents in four contrasting communities. It highlights concerns around childcare in Wales, including availability and affordability, and suggests ways in which the huge childcare gap in Wales might be tackled.
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  summary and actio A CHILDCARE REVOLUTIONIN WALES    Published by The Bevan Foundation Aneurin Bevan House Castle Street TREDEGAR Blaenau Gwent NP22 3DQTel / Fax 01495 725214 info@bevanfoundation.org www.bevanfoundation.orgRegistered charity no. 1104191 ISBN 1 – 904767 – 13 – 3 Copyright The Bevan Foundation February 2005. All rights reserved.  A ‘CHILDCARE REVOLUTION’ IN WALES summary and action BACKGROUND Suddenly, childcare is a big political issue that is occupying a central place on the political agenda. After years in which childcare, if discussed at all, was seen to be of minor interest and a ‘women’s issue’, it has become a topic of national importance. From the announcement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s ‘childcare revolution’ at the end of 2004 to the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment to children, childcare is at the centre of governments’ ambitions.But what is the reality like in various parts of Wales? What are the experiences of parents in different communities and different circumstances in Wales? What are the links between childcare provision and poverty? And what needs to be done to ensure that there is a ‘childcare revolution’ that meets the needs of children, especially poor children, women and men in Wales?This report is based on research undertaken by the Bevan Foundation, with the support of Oxfam Cymru’s UK Poverty Programme, the Equal Opportunities Commission Wales, BT Wales and Chwarae Teg. It brings together the findings of other research, looks at the experiences of parents in four contrasting communities, and makes recommendations to achieve a step-change in provision in Wales. 03  THE IMPORTANCE OF CHILDCARE Childcare provides real benefits for society and the economy in general, as well as for individuals and families. REDUCING CHILD POVERTY Almost one in three children in Wales (30%) lives in poverty – some 200,000 under sixteen year olds. Many studies have shown that poverty affects children’s health, is associated with poor housing, and in turn is linked with lower educational attainment and exclusion from participation in society. The provision of childcare enables both parents to access the labour market and is an essential ingredient in the drive to eradicate child poverty. PROMOTING EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY Despite the huge influx of women into employment in recent years, women in Wales are less likely to work than men in Wales or than women in the UK as a whole. Those women who do work earn less than men in Wales, and also earn less than the UK average for females. Women’s employment patterns tend to be very different to men’s, typically featuring gaps of non-employment or part-time work whilst they care for young children. So, traditional gender divisions remain, poverty and low wages are endemic amongst women, and many women do not contribute to society as much as they might otherwise do. Numerous studies have shown that the availability of childcare greatly enhances women’s access to employment and enables them to realise their potential. For example, lack of affordable and accessible childcare is perceived to be the greatest barrier to lone parents entering the workforce. 04
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