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Half of local authorities in the UK don’t have enough childcare

The Family and Childcare Trust has published the results of its annual childcare survey.

Key findings include:

  • Only half of local authorities in England and Wales have enough childcare for parents working full time.
  • The majority of local authorities do not have enough childcare available for children needing after school care, parents working outside normal office hours, or disabled children.
  • 33 per cent of local authorities in England, 40 per cent in Wales, and 14 per cent in Scotland, do not have enough early education for three and four year olds eligible for the universal free entitlements.
  • Less than half of English local authorities have enough childcare for children using the 30 hour extended entitlement. Local authorities report that 82 per cent of day nurseries are currently offering the 30 hour extended entitlement to at least some children – this falls to 57 per cent of nursery classes and 53 per cent of childminders.
  • Local authorities expect a mixed impact from the 30 hour policy on their childcare market as it rolls out in full: some are concerned about the funding not being enough to meet providers’ costs, while others think it will lead to higher occupancy and a more stable income stream. This is partly driven by different funding levels in different local authorities.

The report recommends that government ‘develop a childcare strategy and reform all current spend on childcare to create a simple and efficient system that makes sure all parents are better off working, encourages quality improvement and promotes child development’.

It also makes the following short-term recommendations:

  • Make sure every parent is better off working after paying for childcare. This includes increasing the maximum amount of childcare costs paid for under Universal Credit and moving to upfront payments for childcare to make it possible for parents to move into work.
  • Make sure there is enough childcare available for all families. Governments should provide start up grants to childcare providers and responsive funding for childcare providers so that they can meet the needs of disabled children.
  • Help parents to improve their skills and employability by extending 30 hours free childcare for three and four year olds to families where parents are in training.
  • Improve access to early education for disadvantaged – including disabled – children by doubling the early years pupil premium.
  • Monitor what effect new funding (tax free childcare and 30 hours) is having on childcare prices and whether it is helping parents into work and narrowing the achievement gap.

Responding to the Family and Childcare Trust’s Childcare Survey 2018, PACEY Chief Executive Liz Bayram said:

“It has become a truism of our time that there is not enough affordable, flexible childcare to go around, fuelled by regular reports such as these. However, childminders remain a great untapped source of potential for funded places. PACEY research has found that half of childminders have at least one spare place they would like to fill, and 40% of childminders haven’t been asked to provide a free entitlement place – despite the more flexible service they offer. The FCT report found that only 53% of childminders are delivering funded places compared to 82% of nurseries. Childminders could deliver substantially more funded places if four key barriers were removed: the low hourly rate for funded places; delayed/uncertain payments and other burdensome red tape associated with the administration of the entitlement; and low levels of parental awareness about childminders.”