School holiday care a family balancing act

School holiday care a family balancing act

Media Release — 26 June 2014

The majority of Australian parents are adjusting their schedules and juggling work arrangements so they can care for children themselves during school holidays, new research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has found.

The study – which analysed the school holiday arrangements of 8,000 children using the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children – found that 93 per cent of Australian primary school children, between 6 and 11 years old were cared for by their parents during the previous year’s school holidays.

AIFS Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jennifer Baxter said school holiday care was most often provided by mothers (91% of children). In comparison, 41% of children were sometimes cared for by fathers in school holidays and 29% were sometimes cared for by grandparents.

“Overwhelmingly, children were most likely to have been looked after using a mix of family-centred arrangements, usually involving care by their mothers or grandparents and to a lesser extent by other relatives, such as older siblings over 18 years old,” Dr Baxter said.

“This may relate to parents seeking to avoid the cost of paying for formal childcare as well as children’s preferences for less structured care during holiday breaks, especially as they get older.

“However some families rely on formal care, with around 14 per cent of children having attended a school holiday program during the previous year underlining the importance of ensuring that these programs are available.

“The findings also highlight the need for parents to have access to flexible work arrangements to facilitate fathers, as well as mothers being able to take time off to care for children in school holidays.

Dr Baxter said the research also provided an insight into how school holiday care is managed by lone mothers who are primary carers.

“The children most likely to have been in formal school holiday programs were those with a working lone mother (27 per cent), compared to children in two-parent families with both parents in paid work (16 per cent),” she said.

“In lone mother families, it wasn’t only grandparents stepping in to help out during holidays. The child’s father who lived in a separate household also provided some care to one in three primary school-aged children in these families, in line with the increased emphasis on shared parental care in separated families in recent years.”

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