Supporting parents to work with free childcare

The Department for Education needed robust, independent evidence on whether the rollout of extended free childcare places had been successful.

We showed how it was supporting parents to work and offered recommendations to address some initial problems.

Assessing the launch

Prior to launch, expectations around the success of 30 Hours Free Childcare were pessimistic: media stories predicted that childcare providers would be unwilling to offer the extended free hours and parents would be unable to use them. During the early trials and national rollout, we collected survey evidence from thousands of providers and parents to measure precisely whether places were delivered and the impacts on parents and also undertook in-depth interviews to identify how and why any problems were arising.

Take-off surprisingly successful

Contrary to prior concerns, our evidence showed that the policy had delivered free hours as planned. Moreover, large numbers of parents reported positive impacts on their ability to undertake paid employment. However, we also identified that there were adverse financial impacts for a large proportion of providers and made a number of recommendations around improving parents’ understanding of the policy to increase take-up.

Focusing on what matters

Frontier’s evidence helped to refocus the discussion away from the practical challenges of delivery towards the positive benefits for families. The responses from parents indicated that that these benefits included not only greater work opportunities and more money to spend, but also a reduction in stress in family life.