Press release

New online tool to make finding childcare easier for parents

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Ipsos MORI research shows many parents are often unaware of childcare provision in their area.

Early years playing

Plans are underway to give parents information about quality, affordable and accessible childcare through a new online tool - the first of its kind, Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah announced today (6 February 2015).

At the moment, although there is often a wealth of information available, parents have to navigate numerous sources to get to grips with the childcare available to them locally. It can be difficult to get simple information like costs and available places, or to work out how to combine different types of childcare like nurseries, nannies and childminders, making it challenging for parents to arrive at the best decision for their family.

Ipsos MORI research published today shows that parents are unsure where to find information and often unaware of the full childcare provision in their area. Today, the government is launching a competition for online developers who are being invited to come forward with innovative ideas for a new online tool to bring together in one place everything parents need to know about the childcare available in their local area to help them pick the solution. This will be the very first government-backed technical solution of its kind.

Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah said:

Choosing childcare is one of the most important decisions any parent makes, but too often it’s hard to find out about all the options available to their family quickly and easily.

We want all parents to have access to good-quality and affordable childcare, with all the information about what’s available locally at their fingertips. Instead of wasting time just trying to uncover what’s available, parents will have everything they need to weigh up what’s best for them in one place - such as costs, opening hours and available spaces.

We’re looking for ideas from experts in digital technology on how to make this happen to make things easier for parents through a new ‘one stop shop’.

The website or mobile phone app should make it easier for parents to find and arrange formal childcare provision and contain information that is up-to-date and useful. It should also enable parents to search in a way that suits them, such as by location or opening hours.

Ideas could include:

  • providing information about the entire range of childcare providers, including schools (so that details of wraparound care can be captured), nurseries and childminders
  • designing a platform that makes it easy for providers to reach customers and manage their availability, and which allows parents to book and pay for childcare online
  • enabling parents to rate and review provision to help others make informed choices, and to allow good providers to build strong reputations
  • connecting to social media so that parents can see what provision their friends use and how they rate it
  • making it easy for parents who use the same childcare provider to arrange to share pick-ups and drop-offs

The competition is being run with Innovate UK through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) - a scheme which enables public sector bodies to connect with innovative ideas and technology businesses. Successful applicants will share funding totalling £200,000 to further develop their proposal and bring it to market.

Stephen Browning, Head of SBRI said:

This is an excellent start to 2015 with DfE launching their first SBRI competition to drive innovation in this sector and support the needs of parents.

The new website or app is intended to complement existing means of finding out about childcare, including the Family Information Service (FIS).

The Ipsos MORI report concluded that parents should have access to the information they need to make informed choices about childcare - and it is especially important for parents returning to work to understand the financial support and range of options available to them. Its key findings include:

  • the quality, accessibility and impact of information available to parents is variable
  • parents are often unsure where to find information and often unaware of the full range of childcare provision available in their local area
  • availability of childcare information in a range of forms is key to ensuring parents have access to the right information to inform their decisions

The report called for an improvement to information that’s available to parents, including proposing a central site to bring together key information in an easily accessible digital format clearly signposting parents to the information they need.

Notes to editors

  1. The full brief to online developers is available to read.
  2. The Ipsos MORI report is available to read.
  3. Innovate UK is the new name for the Technology Strategy Board - we’re the UK’s innovation agency, accelerating economic growth. We know that taking a new idea to market is a challenge. We fund, support and connect innovative businesses through a unique mix of people and programmes to accelerate sustainable economic growth. The SBRI programme uses the power of government procurement to drive innovation. It provides opportunities for innovative companies to engage with the public sector to solve specific problems. Competitions for new technologies and ideas are run on specific topics and aim to engage a broad range of organisations. SBRI enables the public sector to engage with industry during the early stages of development, supporting projects through the stages of feasibility and prototyping.

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Published 6 February 2015