A Bright Start: improving childcare for disadvantaged families though Universal Credit Report

Save the Children and the Centre for Social Justice have released A bright start: improving childcare for disadvantaged families through Universal Credit today. Please see below for an overview of the report.


There are clear problems with affordability of childcare, particularly for low income families. Just over half of parents in lower socio-economic groups say they remain put off from working, or working more hours, because of the cost of childcare. The current funding spread for childcare now tilts towards better off families and funds should be placed where they are most transformative.

Recommendation: Government should raise the childcare element of Universal Credit, from 85 per cent to 100 per cent of eligible costs to support low income families – this would have a substantial impact on take home pay and is an accessible message that can be easily communicated. To help pay for this, Government should recalibrate subsidies that exist for more affluent parents.


Complexity of information

The flow of existing childcare information and advice is fragmented, and parents would benefit from a more coherent approach. The complexity in the diversity of offers and in the way each operates contributes to low take up. Research into low- and middle-income parents’ experiences of navigating the system found:


  • Confusion about, and lack of awareness of, the different childcare offers that were available
  • Parents relied on multiple sources of information to find out about offers, including online and printed information, and conversations with trusted individuals
  • Parents are not fully informed about their entitlements as a whole and information about free entitlements is often separated from other forms of support
  • Further areas of confusion: the range of information available online, application processes, and lack of transparency about additional costs
  • Information focuses on types of support parents are currently entitled to, rather than what they could be entitled to if they entered work or increased their hours



  • Provide a link to the more engaging and detailed Childcare Choices website on the gov.uk pages
  • DfE, DWP and HM Treasury should support LAs to work with health visitors, childcare providers and jobcentre staff to provide a broader suite of joined up advice that also covers Tax Free Childcare and Universal Credit
  • Government should make sure work coaches are well placed to address any confusion about the UC childcare offer, and to inform individuals about all their options
  • DWP should use the rich data it holds to provide parents with tailored information about the types of childcare support available to them – this should include counterfactuals so that parents can see the effect of changing their working hours
  • DfE and DWP should work together to raise awareness of the 30 hour offer among non-working parents
  • DfE should encourage and support childcare providers and children’s centres to engage disadvantaged parents and advise them about the full suite of childcare options


Local authorities

The report calls attention to the fact FISs are underfunded and that due to the complex system there is a need for good information on childcare. Research found:

  • Parents did not typically think LA sources were reliable (we wondered whether this could be related to the points that some of you have made that parents don’t always know when the information they are receiving is coming from local authorities?)
  • Government or LA sponsored adverts were very effective



Children, Community, Economics, Families, Newsletter, Poverty