Six weeks of summer: At what cost?
20th May 2014
In recent months, the increasing cost of childcare in the UK has been a hotly-debated and the subject of significant media attention. Parents around the country are being put under financial strain as a result, forcing many to take time off work or enlist the help of grandparents or other relatives to look after their children, particularly during the school holidays.
With the summer holidays soon to be upon us, we carried out a survey in order to find out where and how children around the UK will be looked after during this six week period. 2000 parents with children between the ages of 0 and 18 were asked a series of questions on the matter, providing some interesting and varied responses.
According to our research, fewer than 5% will be paying for childcare, a figure which validates the recent concern over its increasing unaffordability. Instead, almost a quarter of those surveyed will be taking annual leave from their full-time positions in order to take care of their children.
Unfortunately, in a significant number of cases, the family unit will also have to suffer, as many couples will not be able to go on leave at the same time to look after their children together. Our findings show that almost 20% of the respondents reporting that they and their partner are forced to take time off work at separately to make allowances for childcare.
EXTENDED FAMILY SUPPORT
The survey also highlighted the significant importance grandparents and other relatives as a means of support for parents with children. This summer, as an alternative to paying for childcare or taking time off work, 20% of parents will call upon grandparents to look after their children for the majority of the vacation. On average, grandparents will spend approximately one and a half weeks looking after their grandchildren during the summer holidays.
In terms of the benefits of grandparents assuming responsibility for the children, it comes as little surprise that saving money was the most commonly cited, with just over 20% of the votes. Convenience, flexibility and trust were cited as further advantages, receiving approximately 15% of the votes respectively.
Although the financial, physical and emotional strain of parents is undoubtedly relieved by grandparents taking care of the children, this can also have its disadvantages. Nearly a third of our survey’s respondents said that leaving their children in the hands of grandparents resulted in their authority as a parent being undermined, while a further 23% said that their children were more likely to pick up bad habits or misbehave.
It goes without saying that one of the most popular activities for families during the summer break is going on holiday. Our survey revealed the UK will be the holiday destination of choice for most families this summer, rather than a foreign country.
Of those who aren’t going on holiday, a 65% cited expense as the reason. Work and other commitments were also factors, while 10% deem going on holiday to be too stressful. Perhaps this explains why more 30% of parents go on holiday with grandparents in order for them to assist with the childcare.
Given the length of the school summer holidays, it’s little wonder that parents are constantly on the lookout for things to keep their youngsters entertained! In fact, over half of the survey’s respondents expressed their desire for the greater availability of free events and activities in their local area.
A strong preference for local family activities also exists, while almost a quarter of respondents even said that they wish there were more beaches in their area. Respondents appeared to be least bothered about the availability of nature or farms in their area, with a mere 15% citing this to be desirable.
GADGETS v. GOOD OLD FASHIONED FUN
While many parents seek alternative and engaging ways to keep their children entertained, it seems that many are happy for their children to simply use a games console or tablet as a source of entertainment. When asked what they would pack in their child’s bag to take with them to their grandparents, a third of the parents surveyed would include such an electronic device.
However, it appears that technology hasn't succeeded to take over traditional toys and games just yet, with 40% of parents choosing to pack these in their child’s bag when sending them of to spend time with their grandparents.
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