Assessing childcare services in Europe

The benefits of good quality early childhood education and care services (i.e. formal arrangements providing care and education of children under compulsory school age) for children, their parents and society have been widely documented and include the enhancement of learning by children and participation in the labour market of their parents. In the Recommendation on Child Poverty, the Commission puts emphasis on the need to invest in accessible and inclusive services and to adapt their provision to the needs of families who require additional resources and support.

Eurofound focused in 2013 on evaluations showing the impact of investing in the workforce on the quality of childhood education and care services. A report Early childhood care: working conditions, training and quality of services – A systematic review is available. Prior to this report, a working paper on Early childhood education and care: Working conditions and training opportunities was produced.

During 2014, Eurofound analysed how the services can be made more accessible and inclusive for children who require greater support, looking at good practice examples. The report Early childhood care: Accessibility and quality of services is now published.

Developing support to parents through early childhood services

Another important issue addressed by Eurofound is how early childhood services are providing parents/carers with educational and social supports, and how these services can contribute to more effective parenting. A workshop on this theme was held in Brussels on 27 November 2009. A workshop report is available.

Parenting support is usually implemented as part of a wider framework of child welfare or family policies. Recent (2011-2012) Eurofound research documents case studies in seven Member States, explaining how the concept of parenting support is understood across Europe and presenting good practice of early childhood centres offering these educational and social supports. The report and executive summary were published in March 2013. An info sheet is also available.

Childcare for school children: Employment development in the EU

Childcare is moving to the forefront of social policy within the EU. Yet the childcare sector in many countries is not considered to be an attractive area to work in. If more and better qualified staff are to be drawn to childcare, reform is needed.

One of the research areas that have been neglected in the past has been the out-of-school care for school children (5-12). In order to highlight the current situation and to show up some best practices across the EU, the Foundation has studied the childcare sector across the EU 25.

The research shows up the great disparities existing in this sector across the participating countries and the varying approaches taken by the member states. A report and an info sheet are available. In-depth analysis carried out in six countries as well as case studies can be found in the national reports: Austria, Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Out-of-school care services for children living in disadvantaged areas

The above research has been extended to examine formal childcare provision for school age children living in disadvantaged areas and communities.

The main providers of out-of-school care are the public and the voluntary sectors, including community and parent-led organisations. However, in disadvantaged areas, it is unlikely that the receipt of fees will be sufficient to finance out-of-school care. It is important, therefore, to look at the options for providing such care and for maximising its benefits.

The research focused on six Member States and the following reports are now available: Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Portugal and the United Kingdom. The main objective of the research was to assess the impact of the different approaches implemented in each Member State and to establish which measures were successful, why they were successful, and what lessons they provide for policymakers and key actors.

A consolidated report draws together the findings of the national research. A info sheet is also available.

Families and childcare services

To further explore the issue of care services for children a seminar was held in Ankara, Turkey on 5 June 2008. It was jointly organised by Eurofound and the Turkish Ministry of Labour and Social Security. Discussions at the seminar centred around similarities and differences between families and childcare systems in Turkey, EU and other OECD countries. The conference report is now available.

Other related Eurofound publications