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Schools may be the answer to rising childcare costs

The rise in the cost of childcare in the UK shows no signs of abating. Recent analysis has found that childcare costs have risen above inflation since 2003 and faster than earnings since 2008. Even with state expenditure being more than 40 per cent more than the OECD average for children under three, childcare costs still eat up a substantial proportion of a family's income.

The average cost for 25 hours of care per week for a child under two is now £5,600 a year. This can present a major strain on family finances. According to one recent survey almost half of those who used formal childcare said they found it difficult or very difficult to meet childcare costs.

The problems don't necessarily diminish once the children are of school age. Childcare may still be needed before or after school, and during the holidays. As a result, the Government is encouraging schools to do more to support families, not only by offering breakfast clubs and after-school provision, but also by opening their doors throughout the holidays. Schools already have powers to change opening and closing times as needed, but soon they will get to decide how to arrange their term and holiday dates too.

The childcare issue can also be approached from the employer's end. With greater flexibility in the workplace on hours, shifts and home-working arrangements, it is generally easier for working parents to meet the needs of their families. The reward for employers has been shown to be improved employee loyalty and engagement, and higher productivity for the bottom line too.

Extensive advice for employers and workers is available from Advisory booklet - Flexible working and work-life balance . Acas also runs practical training courses on Flexible working, including developing family-friendly policies in the workplace.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions page for more information.

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