If you have a young family, you may right now be stuck in the middle of a bewildering maze.

You're aware that somewhere out there is childcare support from the government - but exactly what, that is clear as mud.

Well, don't worry - you're not alone.

Now the government's own advisers have released a survey today that suggests many people are "in the dark".

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, headed up by the former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn, has surveyed 1,000 parents of 0-3 year olds - mostly, but not exclusively, mothers.

And the findings are quite stark.


of first time mothers have little understanding of what is on offer or how to access it


of low income parents would like to work but are put off by the cost of childcare

And yet it's not as if Britain doesn't put quite a bit of money into it.

By 2020, the government will be putting £6 billion into childcare support.

Some of this will go into the 15 hours of free childcare for parents of three and four-year-olds.

This policy is very popular and there is high take up - with some 90% of parents knowing about this.

But it's the help beforehand that is less clear and, the government advisers think, critical.

If it isn't made obvious to new mothers, they will opt not to go back to work.

One mother we interviewed in Norwich today, nursing her three-week-old baby son Leo, confirmed it was too much.

Amy Mace told us: "Me and my partner have sat down and googled what we're entitled to, but it's still very confusing if we're entitled to any help.

"There are a few options but looking into it, we still are a bit unsure."

And yet there is quite a lot available to her - by 2017 there will be 6 different policies.

Here at ITV News we have listed it for you: First-time parent? Here's what you are entitled to

Amy Mace is a childcare worker herself - but still finds the system confusing. Credit: ITV News

Someone like Amy actually has a few options.

If Amy decided to go back to work, and had a low enough income to be eligible for tax credits, she would get a proportion of her childcare costs paid - at most this could be 70%, but it depends on earnings and region.

If she earns more and is not eligible for tax credits, then other funding might kick in.

And if her employer does the voucher scheme, Amy could be eligible for that.

More than half of new mums said they did not know what help they were entitled to. Credit: ITV News

The point being made by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission is that if it was less complex, mothers might see how they could financially gain by going back to work.

Last December, the Commission urged the government to make the monetary value of the support available for parents clearer, so they can see the gap between the cost of childcare and their pay packet.

They suggested the government could issue a statement directly to parents entitled to universal credit and child benefit setting out the childcare they are entitled to.

Clearly this matters - the government's policy needs to reach the parents it's intended for.

But there is another reason - childcare support is partly designed by the government to get women back to the workforce and keep them there.

It would boost family earnings and bring down the government's tax credit bill.

The head of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission Alan Milburn. Credit: ITV News

The Commission have also taken a look at it because they think getting more mothers into work improves the life chances of their kids.

Alan Milburn told ITV News: "Far too many parents find it difficult to navigate the maze of where you get funding from.

"The way that it is currently funded is a confusion, piled on a mess, piled on a muddle."

The government is spending some £6 billon a year, but Milburn believes that money isn't being well spent.

He said: "Unless the government takes urgent action to make it easier for parents to work out how much they are entitled to, when they are entitled to it - they will not be getting the maximum bang for the buck."

MP for Norwich North Chloe Smith