The Family and Childcare Trust's Childcare Survey, released today, reveals only 45% of councils are offering sufficient childcare for full time working parents.
The organisation estimates that 41,300 3-year-olds are missing out on the free education entitlement, with 59 local authorities in England, now reporting a lack of free places for 3- and 4-year-olds.
The 15th annual survey, which tracks childcare costs year on year, also shows that the price of childcare has levelled out over the last 12 months and is now tracking just above inflation for the first time in eight years. However, the survey also shows that working families on low incomes are still struggling – in 11 local authorities, part-time childcare costs exceed the Working Tax Credit support provided, costing these families an average of £4,240 a year.
The report also highlights there are big differences in numbers of childminders, with as few as four childminders per 1,000 children under the age of 5 in some parts of the country and up to 24 childminders per 1,000 children in others.
Liz Bayram, PACEY's Chief Executive comments:
"The lack of available free education places for children is of great concern. Local authorities are not meeting demand, and so children are missing out.
"We are acutely aware that the number of childminders has declined in recent years. However, it is time to stop lamenting the decline in childminders and instead focus on how settings can work together to deliver the free education entitlement. Childminding has a key role to play in delivering the 30 hours offer - and capacity to do so as long as the funding structure local authorities put in place is right.
"Childminding is changing, with settings growing capacity by taking on childminder assistants, and there has been a steady increase in childcare on domestic premises. There is a new era for childminding ahead and for the unique home based service that they offer families."