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More than half of councils fail to provide free childcare

The number of 2-year-olds eligible for 15 hours of free childcare a week from a local provider will double from 130,000 to 260,000 in less than two weeks. But local authorities aren’t ready.

An investigation by CYP Now has revealed that many authorities are not prepared for the increase in free childcare places for 2-year-olds, and more than half will be unable to provide all disadvantaged 2-year-olds with access to free childcare from 1 September.

Of the 131 authorities that responded to the investigation, 53.44 per cent said they won’t secure enough places before the deadline.

That’s a shortfall of 34,854 places from the report. And it could be even larger as councils have not yet rated 1,499 of the earmarked settings.

Liz Bayram, PACEY chief executive, comments:

"These findings are rightly concerning; as we know that high quality childcare provision is crucial in helping children, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, to have the best possible start in life.

“PACEY is clear that more can be done to tackle this gap in provision. We need to see greater recognition from government and local authorities of the early learning opportunities that all high quality childcare settings provide, including registered childminders who continue to be under-utilised. Not all disadvantaged 2-year-olds are best placed in school-based nurseries and we are concerned there is a growing focus on schools as the only solution. There also needs to be more effort to help parents recognise the choice of high quality childcare available to them, and to ensure this is accessible.

“At the moment, for instance, some local authorities do not adequately recognise the role that childminders play, with many of these settings having difficulties accessing the necessary free entitlement funding and so limiting choice for parents. And of course it is also important to ensure appropriate funding levels that cover the full cost of delivery so settings can invest in quality improvement.”

Read the full story from CYP Now here.