Journal of Social Policy


Mobility within the Childcare Workforce: Evidence for a New Policy?


a1 [Qcontact author] Professor of Education and Family Support, Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, 27/28 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AA. Email

a2 Professor in the Sociology of the Family, Thomas Coram Research Unit

a3 Senior Research Officer, Thomas Coram Research Unit


This article presents findings from a three-year government-funded study of the work and family lives of four important groups within the childcare workforce in England: residential social workers in children's homes, family support workers, foster carers and community childminders. The study used a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, including biographical narrative interviews. The policy context of the Children's Workforce Strategy is discussed, focusing particularly on the government's aim to develop greater integration between different types of work with children and the creation of a more flexible childcare workforce. The article then draws together findings from the study to argue that although the planned integrated qualifications framework may assist mobility within the childcare workforce, other factors also need to be taken into account. The choice to engage in particular types of childcare work is often linked to factors such as life stage, preferred age of child, preferred working environment and the worker's own background and needs. This suggests the need for more targeted recruitment, matching people to type of work, and for more attention to be paid to the connections between work and family life. The study does provide some evidence of transferable skills and movement over time between types of work with children, and demonstrates the importance of seeing the life-course as presenting opportunities for childcare employment rather than being an obstacle.