A Report published today by CentreForum examines the potential impact of the changes to childcare policy.
Entitled Widening the gap? The impact of the 30-hour entitlement on early years education and childcare, the report raises a number of key findings:
Those on higher incomes are the main beneficiaries: following the introduction of the 30-hour childcare entitlement, Tax-Free Childcare, and Universal Credit, CentreForum expects a two parent family on the national living wage and earning £19,000 per year to receive 20 per cent less childcare subsidy for a child aged 3 or 4 years than a two parent family with annual earnings of £100,000
Working Tax Credit is not being claimed: Around 85 per cent, over two million parents, do not claim the childcare element of Working Tax Credit despite being potentially eligible
15 hours does not necessarily equal quality: Childcare under the current 15-hour entitlement does not automatically offer the high level of quality that would be required for the disadvantage attainment gap to be substantially reduced
Extending the entitlement is likely to further impact quality: Extending the entitlement to 30 hours per week for working families is therefore likely to create additional strain on quality. The national average funding rates announced do not indicate a sufficient investment in raising quality through substantial workforce development
Disadvantaged children are most at risk: Children of parents on low incomes do not qualify for the entitlement, but there is a danger that greater competition for places could result in these children struggling to access even their core entitlement to 15 hours per week of early education
There is little evidence that the 30 hours will substantially improve maternal employment rates: Instead, extending free entitlement is likely to carry a considerable level of ‘deadweight’ as existing childcare arrangements are simply replaced by government-funded provision.
Commenting on the report, Liz Bayram, Chief Executive, Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years says:
"We know how important high quality childcare is, and the impact it has on a child’s development. Research from across the globe clearly shows that better trained and qualified childcare professionals provide better outcomes for children, particularly for disadvantaged ones.
“It is unacceptable that the quality of early years provision is substantially lower in deprived areas, and that less than half of the poorest children in England are ready for school, compared to almost two-thirds of other children. High quality early education would go some way in narrowing this gap.
"Government should heed CentreForum’s warning that extending the entitlement to 30 hours per week for working families is likely to exacerbate the current strain on quality. We know that high quality childcare makes the most difference, particularly for children from low income families. There is an opportunity to use the Government’s forthcoming consultation on the early years funding formula to ensure that providers are incentivised to deliver the new entitlement.
“The Government has already made a public commitment to work in partnership with the sector to publish a workforce strategy in 2016, but to date we have seen little progress. Going forward, this must be a priority, as the main driver of quality in a setting is its workforce.”