Coram Family and Childcare’s 22nd annual Childcare Survey published today reveals a sharp drop in childcare availability across England over the past year, with only half of local areas reporting sufficient childcare for children under two, a decrease of 7% on 2022, and under half (48%) reporting enough childcare for parents working full-time, a decrease of 11% on last year.
The survey also finds that the cost of childcare across Great Britain has continued to rise steadily, at a time when parents are already struggling to meet costs. A part-time place (25 hours a week) for a child under two now costs an average of £148.63 per week, an annual increase of 5.6%.
The figures show it is the most disadvantaged children at risk of missing out, with less than one in five (18%) local authorities in England reporting sufficient childcare for children with disabilities, a 3% decrease on 2022. In addition, 43% of local authorities across Great Britain report that some or many of their local childcare providers have reduced the number of funded early education entitlement places they can provide. In England there has been a 6% drop in the proportion of local areas who have enough places for the universal 15 hour early education entitlement for three and four year olds. These places are vital in narrowing the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, and there is concern they will miss out on this vital boost to their outcomes.
There are significant differences in the cost and availability of childcare depending on where you live across England. The average weekly cost of a part-time place for a child under two is 54% higher in inner London (£199.01) than in Yorkshire and Humberside (£129.32). In outer London, just 28% of local authorities report having enough childcare for children under two, whilst the figure is 100% for the North East.
The report also highlights how the cost of living crisis is impacting childcare providers and the steps they are being forced to take that may further decrease the availability and affordability of childcare for families. Over the past year, 48% of local authorities say that some or many providers have had to reduce staff numbers and 44% say that some or many providers have reduced their opening hours.
Megan Jarvie, Head of Coram Family and Childcare, said: “The need for reform of the childcare system is urgent. As well as eye watering bills, parents are facing widening gaps in availability of the childcare they need. As the Chancellor decides his budget, we urge him to recognise the value of investing in childcare – it is a wise investment, enabling parents to work and boosting the outcomes of young children.”
Ahead of the Budget next week, Coram Family and Childcare is calling on the government to reform the childcare system to create a simpler and more efficient system that prioritises quality, guarantees a childcare place for every child, values the workforce and makes sure that parents only pay what they can afford. While this reform takes place, they also call on the Government to take the following urgent steps to improve the childcare system:
- Review the funding rate for early education entitlements to ensure that it meets the cost of providing high quality care. Alongside any increases in funding, requirements should be put in place to make sure that it is used to increase the focus on childcare quality and to value the workforce to help alleviate recruitment and retention pressures.
- Reform Universal Credit so it does not lock parents out of work by increasing the maximum amount of childcare costs paid under Universal Credit and guaranteeing support for upfront childcare costs.
- Re-allocate underspend from Tax-Free Childcare to other parts of the childcare system and realign Government funding towards low-income families.
- Extend 30 hours funded early education to parents in training or education to help parents move into work and out of poverty.
- Improve support for children with SEND through introducing responsive funding to improve staff skills and make more childcare places accessible.
- Double the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) to ensure it is enough to help close the widening attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.