Only half of UK councils provide good website information on childcare, SOCITM review finds

Written by Jenni Davidson on 22 May 2018 in News

The SOCITM Better Connected survey tested council websites in Scotland, England and Wales for information on childcare

Children with toys - Image credit: PA Images

Only 52 per cent of councils across the UK were found to have good or very good information about childcare on their websites, according to the latest SOCITM Better Connected report.

The annual survey by the public sector IT organisation assesses local authority websites for their accessibility and quality of information on a range of topics.

For childcare services, just 15 per cent of the sites tested across Scotland, England and Wales were found to be very good, with 37 per cent good, 38 per cent unsatisfactory and 10 per cent poor.

SOCITM said that successful completion of the task required councils to present information about national rules applicable to childcare eligibility and funding, as well as information from diverse sources about local provision.

“Top performers made all relevant information easily findable from whatever point in the customer journey, integrating council web pages with relevant pages of their directory and well-placed links to relevant third party sources”, SOCITM said.

“Where councils performed badly, this was usually due to lack of attention to the customer journey from Google and then between council web pages and directory services,” it explained.

“Some of these journeys had surely not been subject to much testing, as one wrong turn would lead to dead ends or a confusing array of options on how to proceed.”

While 79 per cent of councils passed the ‘essential question’ of being able to find information about childcare providers on an interactive map or a postcode look-up, fewer had links to Care Inspectorate or Ofsted reports, information about costs and tax breaks for childcare, and only two thirds had a clear link to the childcare section of the site from the council’s homepage.

However, nearly all, 95 per cent, scored highly for plain, jargon-free English.

Of the Scottish local authorities tested, East Renfrewhire, Midlothian and Perth and Kinross were singled out for praise.

The reviewer commented that East Renfrewhire was “one of a very few sites that clearly signposts and links up information about nursery places and other types of childcare on one landing page” and has “very clear signposting to free places for 2, 3 and 4 years olds amongst other childcare options”.

Midlothian was described as “a thorough website with some good facilities such as a postcode and map look up for childcare provision on the main website, as well as links through to SFIS [Scottish Families Information Services] for childminders”.

It was also said it have “good information and links for funding options, not just the council nursery provision so many Scottish councils limit themselves to, although the reviewer added: “It's a shame that tax free credit was not mentioned or linked to directly”.

Perth and Kinross was commended for “very comprehensive information found in this site, with a good overview of the childcare choices, including information about 'wrap around care' which I have rarely seen mentioned.”

The reviewer added: “A useful page 'Help with the costs of childcare' explains tax free childcare. Overall, the Early Learning and Childcare section provides an excellent, well-structured and balanced set of information on this topic, and I haven't any hesitation in recommending it.”

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