Childcare for all:
Make early childhood education and care accessible and inclusive.
Access to early childhood education and childcare (ECEC) is important for promoting equal opportunities of children as well as for facilitating work-family balance of parents and especially labour market participation of mothers of small children.
EU countries vary in how childcare is provided and how accessible services are.
Cost, opening hours or poor qualityof services.
Different levels of dificulty are expressed across different regions.
- Cost is a barrier for an average of 59% of respondents, rising to 78% in Greece, Malta and the UK.
- Lack of childcare services and waiting lists was a barrier to 58% of service users across Europe, but could reach 70% in Greece and France.
- Physical access is an issue for about 41% of the people interviewed.
- Poor quality of services was mentioned as a barrier by 27%, with concerns over quality being more widespread in Romania (47%) and Greece (63%).
Disadvantaged groups – inclusive practices
Children from disadvantaged groups can experience additional difficulties when it comes to access to mainstream childcare services:
- Children who have for example an immigrant or Roma background,
- Who live in poor families,
- Who have learning difficulties, or
- Who have a disability.
These are the children that would probably benefit most from good quality childcare.
Barriers encountered include:
- Negative attitudes from staff and/or the parents of other children,
- lack of appropriate teaching and learning resources, and
- lack of staff trained in dealing with diversity or detecting special needs early.
Eurofound identified inclusive practices in childcare that were successful in including children in a vulnerable situation in mainstream childcare services. This includes:
- training childcare staff or support to them provided by specialists,
- additional funding schemes, and
- establishing inclusive education plans.
The examples of good practice show that it is particularly important to build partnerships between childcare centres and social services or also NGOs, as this improves the outreach to children in a vulnerable situation. Involving local authorities is also perceived as essential in implementing the changes, as ECEC services cannot implement changes on their own and need financial and political backing. This also allows for continuous feedback and interaction between policy and practice.
Author: D. Molinuevo works as a research officer at Eurofound (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions).
Editor’s note: this article is part of a regular series called “Evidence in focus“, which puts the spotlight on key findings from past and on-going research at DG EMPL.