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New childcare research paints a bleak picture for families

Ahead of the first phase of major expansion to childcare support, new research has highlighted an unsettling situation for households across England.

Just yesterday, 19th March 2024, Coram Family and Childcare published their findings from their yearly survey. The news comes just days before the first phase of major expansion to childcare support. From April 2024, the government have claimed that childcare support will expand gradually – the first phase will see eligible working parents of two-year-olds gain access to 15 hours of childcare.

toddler's walking on the seashore with adult

Reports of this new rule couldn’t have come at a better time. Within the survey, experts found that only a third (34%) of councils in England had reported sufficient childcare for parents working full-time – a decrease of 14% on 2023- and just over one in three (35%) reporting enough childcare for children under two.

In addition, and arguably one of the most distressing findings to come from the research, is that the most disadvantaged children are missing out on childcare support. A mere 6% of councils reported adequate childcare for children with disabilities – a decline of 12% since 2023.

Ellen Broomé, managing director of Coram Family and Childcare, said: ‘The new childcare support that is being rolled out from April has the potential to be a game-changer for parents up and down the country – many of whom have found themselves facing high childcare bills and sometimes even locked out of work because of childcare costs.

‘Our findings – with higher costs and dramatic drops in availability of childcare places – are concerning at this crucial time, showing the scale of challenge and the very real risks around this policy not living up to parents’ expectations.’

Findings from the survey outlined that a part-time nursey place for a child under two now costs an average of £158 per week – a 7% increase on 2023. This statistic is particularly concerning as despite inflation rates coming down, the Bank of England are showing no signs of reducing high interest rates, meaning some households won’t be able to afford these prices.

According to the findings, the most expensive area in the country for childcare costs is inner London, where parents pay an average of £218 per week for one part-time nursey place.

‘The recent additional funding from the Chancellor was welcome but won’t address the long term systemic challenges of high childcare costs for parents, the workforce recruitment and retention crisis or the lack of availability of places for children with SEND,’ Broomé explained. ‘Over the next few months, we need the government to work closely with local authorities and childcare providers to make sure they are supported to deliver for families.’

The report, which can be found in full here, also reveals councils’ concerns about the expanding government plans to provide childcare assistance. Despite 63% of councils saying they are ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ that there will be enough places to meet demands for imminent expansion, when more rules are brought into place the statistic doesn’t hold up.

Just 28% say the same about the expansion from September 2024 (15 free hours from nine months), and this falls to just 12% for the September 2025 expansion (30 hours from nine months).

Broomé added: ‘In this election year, we call upon any future government to commit to reforming our childcare system to make sure all children can access high quality early years education and all parents can make meaningful choices about work and care.’

Image: Guillaume de Germain

More on this topic:

Government announces childcare recruitment cash bonuses to rescue reforms

15 hours of free childcare available for two-year-olds


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