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The Government’s new 30 hour childcare offer will be put at risk by a chronic shortage of childcare places, according to a new report.
The new report ‘Access Denied’ by the Family and Childcare Trust reveals that a quarter of English local authorities are failing to properly monitor childcare places, with some having chronic shortages.
The plan by the Government to offer 30 hours of free childcare to working parents of three and four-year-olds relies on parents being able to access good quality, flexible childcare.
However the report names 38 English local authorities that have failed to carry out and publish assessments of local childcare since 2012, despite being required to do so every year by law.
They include Harrow, Bristol, Torbay and Tower Hamlets, all of which have high childcare costs due to lack of supply, and acute shortages of places for under-fives, after-school and holiday childcare.
Stephen Dunmore, chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust said: “These are worrying findings at a time when the Government is pushing through its ambitious and welcome plans to make childcare more affordable for parents.
“Demand for extra hours of free childcare is likely to be high and we are concerned that a significant number of local authorities in England will not be able to meet this demand.
“We are calling on central Government to hold local authorities to account if they fail to monitor and publish childcare data by making it a requirement in order to receive funding for the extended free childcare offer.”
The Family and Childcare Trust also wants the Department for Education to provide guidance to local authorities to help them monitor childcare effectively, and provide funding to help close the gaps.
Other research findings from analysis of local authority childcare assessments across England and Wales in 2014 show 49 local authorities had a shortage of places for two year olds who qualify for free early education and 32 local authorities had a shortage of places for three and four year olds who qualify for free early education.
A total of 46 local authorities had a shortage of after-school childcare and 39 local authorities had a shortage of holiday childcare.
In 2015 only 43 per cent of local authorities in England, and 18 per cent in Wales have enough childcare to meet the needs of working parents, down from 46 per cent and 50 per cent respectively in 2012.
Davina Ludlow, director of daynurseries.co.uk, a leading online guide to day nurseries and nursery schools, called the chronic childcare shortages “unacceptable” and said: “Too many local authorities are selling parents short by not providing enough good childcare places.
“The time a child spends at nursery can be so crucial to their development, teaching them valuable social and emotional skills but also helping both physically and mentally in preparing them for school.
“It is deprived children who suffer most as lack of childcare provision is most severe in disadvantaged areas. Being able to access free childcare should be a right for every child, not a postcode lottery.”
She added: “It is also important that local authorities are given the appropriate levels of funding by central Government – to ensure the system remains sustainable, easing the burden on nurseries which often have to top up the funding.”