Neglect of early years in spending round will lead to higher fees or restricted access to government childcare entitlements, warns the Early Years Alliance

The Early Years Alliance expressed ‘grave concern’ as the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, failed to mention any extra money to plug the £662 million funding shortfall in early years education in his speech to the House today, Tuesday 3 September. .

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance said:

“The sector cannot continue to bear year-on-year increases in operating costs set against frozen funding levels. In order to avoid joining the 8,800 nurseries and childminders who closed their doors for good between 2016 and 2018, providers will be forced to keep increasing their fees for private hours and charge for optional extras. Parents who can afford to pay more will be disappointed to know they are subsidising the government’s ‘free’ childcare offer. Parents who can’t afford to pay could find it increasingly difficult to secure a funded place in the future.

“Extra money has been found for schools, and while funding the early years properly may not win elections, urgent action is needed now before the damage to early years education is irreparable.”

Underfunding has plunged the sector into crisis, with parents already heavily subsidising the government’s childcare schemes, and further closures expected:

  • In an Alliance survey carried out in March 2019, two thirds of childcare providers had increased parent fees for non-government hours in the past 12 months and nine in 10 planned to do so again from April this year.
  • Parents returning to work following parental leave are particularly vulnerable to high childcare costs – and more than half of those providers who responded warned childcare prices would also go up for very young children.
  • The government’s own research has found that underfunding has made 30 hours not completely flexible or free for all parents with ‘substantial proportions’ reporting restrictions on when they could use the hours (48%) or having to pay charges for additional items or activities (56%).
  • Childcare settings will continue to close leaving parents with less choice, or no childcare at all. Almost one in five childcare providers (17%) in the most deprived areas of England anticipate closure in the next twelve months — over twice as many as those in the most affluent.
  • Childcare providers throughout England have been delivering the government’s flagship childcare schemes on funding levels that are based on cost analysis from 2015, using data from 2012-2013. Analysis from sector experts, Ceeda, estimates the funding shortfall is now £662 million.
     

 ENDS

 About the Alliance

The Early Years Alliance is the largest and most representative early years membership organisation in England. A registered educational charity, it also provides high-quality affordable childcare and education to support children and families in areas of deprivation throughout the country.
The Alliance represents 14,000 members and supports them to deliver care and learning to more than 800,000 families every year. We deliver family learning projects, offer information and advice, produce specialist publications, run acclaimed training programmes and campaign to influence early years policy and practice.
The Alliance website is www.eyalliance.org.uk