Childcare risks becoming the preserve of the wealthy

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Childcare and Early Education has warned that childcare in England risks becoming the preserve of the wealthy, unless a £660 million funding gap in a free childcare scheme is plugged.

MPs report that severe financial strain has been placed on private and independent nurseries offering the government's flagship free 30-hours scheme, which offers parents of all three and four-year-olds 30 hours of free childcare a week - up from 15 hours in 2017, meaning that those operating in poorer areas are more likely to be threatened with closure.

According to the National Day Nurseries Association, the rate at which early years providers are closing has increased by 66 per cent since the introduction of the scheme, and they are closing fastest in more deprived areas.

Tulip Siddiq, chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Childcare and Early Education, said: "We know that the early years are hugely important to a child's physical and mental development and future life chances. However, there is a significant body of evidence to demonstrate that childcare providers are battling to achieve and maintain financial sustainability, and that government policies are a major cause of this challenge."

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Research shows that effective, high-quality early years provision makes a real difference to young children, helping to break the cycle of disadvantage, improving social mobility and offering them a good start in life.
 
“Recent changes to early years provision, including the 30 hours free childcare scheme for working families, are a positive step. However, we have repeatedly raised concerns that the funding rates are insufficient and this is risking both the sustainability of many providers and the quality of provision. We have particular concerns around provision for disadvantaged children and those with special educational needs and disabilities if funding rates continue to fall below the cost of delivering services.
 
“We also have concerns that supplementary funding for maintained nursery schools, which are concentrated in areas of high deprivation and have higher running costs than other nursery provision, ends in 2020 and the government has yet to announce what will happen beyond that. Without a sustainable funding solution, many are likely to close. It is vital that early years providers are properly funded to allow them to deliver the high quality childcare that gives children the best start in life.”

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