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Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, and the Family and Childcare Trust today published a joint report on ‘Innovation in Childcare’, identifying new ideas and options that could benefit families and children. Based on a detailed analysis of the childcare market, it assesses the potential of a number of innovative solutions to deal with the UK’s “three major pinch points” of flexible, accessible and affordable high-quality childcare.

The report highlights that childcare provision is a crucial part of a modern state’s infrastructure, enabling parents to work, improving children’s outcomes and helping narrow the gap for disadvantaged children. Yet despite policy interventions from successive governments, the current system is not working for everyone. Not only are profit margins tight for many service providers, the lack of flexibility in the models available also create barriers to work for many parents - primarily mothers. Given fewer than half the local authorities in the country have enough affordable childcare places to meet demand[1], with the biggest gaps in the poorest communities, the time is ripe to think differently about childcare provision in the UK. 

Drawing on innovative approaches in both the UK and globally, the researchers worked with experts and practitioners to focus on workable, good-value innovation solutions with significant potential to develop. These include ‘digital connectors’ - using digital platforms to help identify appropriate childcare options easily and quickly; co-produced and collaborative childcare to help providers, parents and volunteers develop more cost-effective childcare; new forms of investment and funding and informal childcare such as time/care credits.

Helen Goulden, Executive Director - Innovation Lab, Nesta said: “The vision is for affordable, quality and flexible childcare for everyone that wants or needs it. We’re currently a long way from that vision and the current models of provision may not take us there. Some of the innovations in this report are proving successful, in the UK and internationally. Where we have strong evidence of new models of childcare, we should be supporting them to grow and scale.”

Julia Margo, Chief Executive, Family and Childcare Trust said: “Childcare is essential to families and the country: it enables children to achieve and parents to work. While not a silver bullet, supporting the innovation models identified in this work could help to improve the supply of flexible, accessible and affordable high-quality childcare, and help make childcare work for families.”

In conclusion, the report has specific recommendations for childcare providers, local authorities and central government, acknowledging that most of these innovations will require multi-faceted and multi-layered support from each in order to succeed.

To download the report, visit: Innovation in Childcare

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About Nesta

About Nesta: Nesta is the UK's innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery. Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833 / @nesta_uk

For more information, contact: Kasia Murphy, Press Officer at Nesta: [email protected] /  t: +44 2074382610, m: +447929800765

About the Family and Childcare Trust
The Family and Childcare Trust is the leading national charity in the field of policy, research and advocacy on childcare and family issues, working closely with government, local authorities, businesses and charities to achieve positive and long lasting change for families across the UK. Our vision is a society where all families are well-supported and have genuine choices about their lives. The Family and Childcare Trust’s annual childcare costs survey is the definitive report on childcare costs and sufficiency in the UK and its data are used by the Department for Education and OECD. For further information, go to
For more information, contact: Rebecca Griffin, [email protected]  / t: 020 7940 7533, m: 07538 334772

[1] Family and Childcare Trust ‘2016 Childcare Survey’