Childcare Sufficiency

The Childcare Act (2006) requires local authorities to take reasonable steps to ensure sufficient childcare so that families can work or train. To understand how well childcare matches families needs a Childcare Sufficiency Assessment (CSA) process is undertaken by the Local Authority. This process involves consulting a range of groups as to their childcare needs and comparing this to the available provision.

A full Childcare Sufficiency Assessment is carried out once every three years with a lighter refresh annually. This report presents the findings from the third full CSA carried out in York.
It should be noted that the childcare market is dynamic and changes can happen over a short period of time. This report presents a snapshot in time and as more data and information becomes available the picture of how well childcare matches families’ needs will develop.

Facilitating the Childcare Market in York

There are a number of ways that the Childcare Strategy Service works to meet gaps in childcare demand, including, but not limited to;

  • Market forces where childcare providers are active themselves in identifying demand and seek to set up new provision
  • Supporting childcare providers to remain financially viable so that they remain open
  • Direct stimulus where there is active encouragement of new providers to the market in targeted areas and this can include recruitment of childminders.

Therefore, in most cases additional capacity is created through a combination of commercial market forces and stimulation and support led by Childcare Strategy which can sometimes involve a commissioning process for the delivery of new childcare. The constant changing level, nature and quality of provision in the City means it is often a difficult market to predict in terms of gaps and over-provision: the picture can look very different within a few short months.

It is proposed that York’s award winning Shared Foundation Partnerships are encouraged to take on the role of assessing sufficient childcare through regular parental questionnaires. In the longer term this will provide a more accurate picture of the childcare market and provide responses, in the main, that are community led.

National Context

Throughout 2013 there was great debate over how to develop the childcare market nationally. This debate is of great importance to York as many of the challenges that are faced in York are also faced right across the rest of the country.

More Great Childcare

In January 2013 “More Great Childcare” set out the steps the Governments felt should be taken in order to raise the quality of childcare and give more choice to families. These steps included:

  • Raising the status and quality of the childcare workforce through the introduction of Early Years Teachers and Early Years Educators.
  • Amending staff to children ratios in group childcare and childminders. This proposal was subsequently dropped following consultation.Changes to regulatory regime including; the requirements that local authorities use Ofsted judgements as the sole arbiter of quality, inspecting weaker providers more frequently and allowing for childcare providers to pay for re-inspection.
  • The introduction of Childminder Agencies (CMAs) that would encourage those put off a career in childminding by self employment to be able to enter the childcare market.
  • Encouraging schools to take younger children by removing the requirement for schools to register separately in order to provide childcare to two year olds.

More Affordable Childcare

The Department for Education published the “More Affordable Childcare” policy paper in July 2013. This paper built on “More Great Childcare” and set out the government’s plans to:

  • Help families to meet the costs of childcare;
    • Through the introduction of Universal Credit increasing the childcare element to a maximum of 85% of childcare costs where both parents (or the lone parent) earn enough to reach the minimum tax threshold. This compares to the current maximum of 70% through the Childcare Element of Work Tax Credit).
    • Through the introduction of “tax free childcare”. A new national scheme that replaces existing employer based childcare voucher schemes with an HMRC administered system that will see the government contribute 20p for every 80p paid into the scheme by families. This will provide up to £2,000 of support per year per child.
  • Increase the amount of affordable provision;
    • Through building on proposals outlined in More Great Childcare and bringing forward legislation to introduce a new childcare registration system at the earliest opportunity, following consultation. This would replace the current sets of rules with a single, consistent set of welfare and safeguarding requirements for all childcare providers.
  • Give parents the right information so they can make informed choices about childcare.
    • An independent organisation would be commissioned to improve the way information is provided to families. This work has since been jointly undertaken by Ipsos MORI in conjunction with the Family and Childcare Trust. York has supported this work and held a number of meetings with the Department for Education outlining best practice from York.

Where next?

The debate surrounding the role and future direction of childcare in England is gathering pace. It has been 10 years since the government published the 2004 ten year childcare strategy. With this strategy now at an end and with childcare looking to be a key strand of a forthcoming general election there is great opportunity but also uncertainty for York.

There is the opportunity for York to shape the childcare conversations happening nationally to address some of the systematic challenges faced locally.

There is uncertainty for the local authority and childcare providers in seeing which proposals put forward by different think tanks and political parties become reality and how these impact on the childcare market in York.

Summary of key messages locally

  • Overall childcare in York reasonably matches the needs of local families. In particular:
  • The quality of childcare as judged by Ofsted and by local families is very encouraging.
  • The take up of the new two year old funding exceeds the national averages.
  • The geographical spread of childcare reasonably reflects the needs of families but could be improved further.
  • The childcare market has shown a high level of resilience through a turbulent economic period and responded well to a rising birth rate in York.
  • Childcare costs compare well to national figures but are higher than elsewhere in Yorkshire and Humberside. Take up of support with childcare costs is encouraging but families would benefit from further support in understanding different ways they may be able to reduced their childcare costs. There are clear messages from families relating to the affordability of childcare which mirrors the national picture.
  • York has bucked the trend nationally of falling childminders and is seeing the number of childminders actually increasing. This reflects work to remodel the support offered to people considering a career as a childminder.
  • York continues to play a leading role in trying to address systematic challenges in the childcare market nationally. This can be seen through the Childcare Hubs programme and chairing the National Association of Family Information Services.
  • Training and resources have been invested to improve the accessibility of childcare for disabled children and young people through the Disabled Children’s Access to Childcare project and the Early Years Inclusion funding. Some families with disabled children have expressed they feel unable to access childcare but the reasons behind this are not clear and warrant further work to engage with families.
  • Childcare providers have engaged with work to improve the flexibility of childcare. York now has 37% of childcare providers offering opens times before 8am and 37% of childminders offering additional flexibility beyond their standard opening hours into evenings and weekends. However there are still challenges in how the childcare market can support shift workers or unusual hours.
  • There is also further work to be done to engage employers and encourage them to adopt family friendly working practices.

This Childcare Sufficiency Assessment has shown that generally the childcare market in York meets families needs but highlights some areas that could be further developed or warrant further investigation. This report focuses on issues for childcare sufficiency and will inform the development of an action plan aimed at addressing these gaps.

Sufficiency Scorecard

There is no set definition of what is considered to be “sufficient childcare” or what are “reasonable steps” a local authority should take in discharging its duties. However it is clear that sufficiency of childcare is not just a case of number of places available. It is also how well childcare matches geographical demands, affordability, quality, flexibility, specific needs (e.g. disability or cultural) and indeed whether the childcare is financially sustainable to deliver. These areas are fully explored through the report but a summary scorecard has been provided below to give an at a glance view of sufficiency.

Theme Indicator York North South West South East
Places Places per child of population 0-4 0.42 0.48 0.36 0.41
Places per child of population 5-11 0.23 0.23 0.24 0.19
Childcare brokerages per 100 children of population (excluding 2 year old funding) 1.26 1.08  1.59 0.95

Childminder cost variation from England average -11% -15% -2% -9%
Day Nursery cost variation from England average -6% -6% -10% 2%
Parental view on affordability (1 - strongly agree childcare is affordable, 4 - strongly disagree childcare is affordable) 2.9 2.7 2.89 2.74
Take up per child of population of 3 and 4 year old funding 99% 98% 107% 83%
Take up of two year old funding 77% 74% 72% 86%

Quality Parental views on quality (1- outstanding, 4 - inadequate) 1.65 1.55 1.72 1.82 
Ofsted views on quality (1- outstanding, 4 - inadequate) 2.06 2.06  2.08 2.00
Percentage "Good" or "Outstanding" providers 86% 87% 83% 93%
Specific Needs Percentage of families with disabled children saying their child can not access childcare due to disability. 45% 63% 24% 63%
Time/Flexibility Percentage of childcare providers open before 8am 36.83% 44.50% 33.05% 26.47%
Percentage of childcare providers open after 6pm 6.11% 6.42% 6.01% 5.88%
Percentage of childminders offering additional flexibility 37.02% 44.58% 32.08% 31.58%
Parental perceptions on childcare being available at the right times (1- strongly agree, 4 - strongly disagree) 2.22 2.03 2.40 2.23

A colour coding system has been used for each theme area to indicate how well childcare is matching families needs:

  • RED A gap exists which will prevent families from accessing childcare
  • AMBER Childcare largely matches needs however a gap exists which will give families difficulties in accessing childcare
  • GREEN Childcare largely matches families needs


There are very encouraging messages from families and Ofsted in relation to the quality of childcare in York. The quality of childcare provision as measured by Ofsted outperforms similar local authorities. Parental views on quality are even more encouraging with families rating the quality of provision at 1.65 on a scale of 1 to 4 (1- outstanding, 4 - inadequate).

The 2013 Childcare Sufficiency refresh explored how much the quality of childcare in York was affected by the levels of deprivation (as measured by IDACI ) in the local area surrounding the childcare provider. This was in response to national reports suggesting that the quality of childcare providers was lower in areas of higher deprivation. It was found that in York there was no clear relationship that suggested the quality of childcare was lower in areas of greater deprivation.


Overall the geographical spread of places reasonably matches families needs. The childcare market in York has shown a high level of resilience through turbulent economic times. The number of childminders in York has increased over recent years following a transformation of support to those considering a career in childcare. This contrasts with a national picture of falling numbers of registered childminders. There has also been a significant increase in the number and range of childcare providers that can be used for two, three and four year old funded provision as a result of changes in the national code of practice. This has resulted in greater choice for families.

There are pressure points within the Local Authority. Supply data suggests pressure point in the following wards Hull Road, Heworth Without, Holgate, Fulford and Bishopthorpe.

Feedback from families would suggest in terms of absolute numbers of families the wards of Skelton, Rawcliffe and Clifton Without, Holgate, Micklegate and Heworth have the highest numbers of families strongly agreeing with the statement that childcare is a barrier to them working or training. Although the number of families expressing this opinion are much lower in Osbaldwick and Dunnington, the proportion of respondents agreeing with the statement is above average.

Some families have expressed that accessing before or after school provision can be challenging. When exploring levels of demand by school attended levels of demand exist but may not be at a level where by an out of school club could be sustained. Schools are encouraged to work with their Shared Foundation Partnerships in responding to the needs of families and learning from the two Childcare Hubs will support his.


The picture in York reflects what is seen nationally in terms of childcare costs. Childcare costs in York have risen in recent years but still remain below the national averages. Day nursery costs in York are 6% lower than the average for England but are higher when compared to the Yorkshire and Humber region. The size of this variation is due to a significant drop in the Yorkshire and Humber regional average cost. It is unclear why this drop has affected providers in the wider Yorkshire and Humber region but not York.

York compares well to the rest of the country in terms of families accessing support with childcare costs such as the Childcare element of Working Tax Credit, two year old funding and Care 2 Learn.

Parents and carers expressing that they feel that childcare is not affordable is the strongest single message from families through the parental consultation. On a scale of 1 to 4 (1 – strongly agree, 4 – strongly disagree) the average score was 2.9 for the statement “Childcare is affordable”. However for the statement “Childcare is good value for money” the average score becomes 2.4. This shows families feel more positively about how much value for money is being offered by childcare but that opinion is split.

The statement “I know where to get information about childcare” scored 1.89 indicating reasonably positive parents awareness of sources of childcare information. However the statement “I know where to find information about financial help for childcare” scores 2.29 showing that more can be done to raise awareness with families of help with childcare costs.

Specific Needs

Over recent years efforts have been made to improve the capacity of the childcare market to support children with disabilities and additional needs. This has taken many forms including training, resources and developing information available to families. The research into the effectiveness of the Early Years Inclusion Fund has shown the positive benefits that this scheme has generated for 2, 3 and 4 year olds. Nationally parents and carers of disabled children and young people have said they find it harder to access suitable childcare and York would appear to share this ongoing challenge. From the parental consultation 22 out of 49 parents/carers of disabled children stated that they feel they are unable to use childcare because of their child’s condition.

There is no direct national comparison for this statistic but national research would suggest York is not alone in parents of disabled children facing barriers to childcare:

  • Research by Contact a Family suggests nationally 72% of families have cut back or given up work because of childcare problems.
  • Government research has found that 28% of parents/carers that “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the statement “There are childcare providers in my area that can cater for my child’s illness/ disability”.

A parliamentary inquiry into childcare for disabled children was launched in 2014 by Robert Buckland MP and Pat Glass MP. The inquiry is supported by Every Disabled Child Matters, Contact A Family, Working Families and the Family and Childcare Trust. This national inquiry reported its key findings against the headings of:

  • Affordability - Parent carers are often charged higher than average fees: 86% of parent carers who responded to the Inquiry’s survey reported paying £5 or more per hour, with 38% paying £11-20 and 5% paying more than £20.
  • Availability and inclusion - Mainstream childcare provision is often not inclusive because of poor understanding of reasonable adjustments. There is also a lack of support available for providers to access additional training, resources and physical adaptations.
  • Quality - 33% of parent carers say that the lack of experienced staff was the reason for not accessing childcare, echoing concerns evident in the Childcare and early years survey of parents 2012-2013.
  • Access and information - 92% of parent carers say finding childcare for disabled children is more difficult than for non-disabled children.

Locally it should be noted that the fieldwork for parental consultation occurred at the same time as proposals for changes to school transport arrangements were being discussed which families of disabled children said would affect their ability to access childcare. As a result of feedback from families the final school transport model responded to their concerns. However this can be seen to have impacted on the messages received from families with disabled children as to why they feel they are unable to access childcare.

Comments from families where they have stated that their child is disabled and they feel they are unable to access childcare have been analysed to see what common themes emerge. Comments from families offer limited further detail on the reasons families with disabled children feel unable to access childcare. Some comments from families make no reference to disability, some make reference to working patterns, some relate to transport issues which have since been resolved, some families left no further comments at all. Further is being undertaken to better understand the perceived barriers for families to access childcare for disabled children and young people.


Recent years has seen an increase in the number of families demanding greater availability of childcare outside of 8am-6pm Monday to Friday. A greater proportion of childcare providers are now offering extended hours with childminders in particular offering out of hours and weekend care in response to this growing demand.

The challenge of meeting the greater range of working patterns now undertaken by families is a national challenge also. The challenge being finding an affordable model for families, sustainable for childcare providers and ensuring that the children’s well-being and needs are also being met. York is playing an active role in trying to find a solution which can be seen through the following examples:

  • The Community Childcare Hub pilots running nationally have two trial areas in York. A key aim of these pilots is to introduce blended childcare, where childcare providers in a local area work together to meet families needs.
  • Work to recruit new childminders has specifically targeted those who may be able to offer greater degrees of flexibility and out of hours childcare. This, along with an audit of existing childminders, has resulted in 37.02% of childminders saying that they offer additional flexibility beyond their standard operating hours.
  • York has introduced flexible ways that families can take the two, three and four year old funded places by allowing families to stretch their overall hours entitlement over 51 weeks of the year. However demand for out of hours childcare or childcare to cover shift patterns still presents families with a challenge. Childcare arrangements can be complex and also potentially costly for families where they have changing shift patterns. In particular this affects families where there is a single parent or 3 or more children in the family.

There is a need to work further with local employers to try and support them to operate in a “family friendly” way so that a healthy work / life balance can be achieved.

The role of creches

The role of crèche provision in the childcare market should be highlighted in this report. The York Learning service at City of York Council provides a crèche service to support family learning programmes as well as some parenting and children’s centre services.

The legal responsibilities in relation to local authorities taking reasonable steps to secure sufficient childcare relates to childcare registered with Ofsted or where the Childcare Element of Working Tax Credit can be used. Although the short term, crèche provision supplied by York Learning does not fall into this scope it should be recognised that this crèche provision plays and important role in supporting families access a range of training and support programmes. This is reflected in discussions between childcare practitioners and also in feedback from families taking part in the parental consultation.

The sustainability of these crèches is being increasingly challenged. Ensuring this does not create a barrier for families should be address through the council’s wider transformation programme and consider the best way to meet these childcare needs.