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Report calls on government to address persistent problems with childcare provision

Following its 2016 Childcare Survey, The Family and Childcare Trust has called on the government to address what it calls “persistent problems with childcare provision in the UK”.
Key findings of the report state that an estimated 41,300 three-year-olds are missing out on their free early education entitlement, and that 59 local authorities do not have enough free places for three- and four-year-olds; up from 23 local authorities in 2015.
As such, the Family and Childcare Trust has made six recommendations, which include calling on the government to make an early education place a legal entitlement for children (in line with schools), help providers expand by offering grants and guidance on market management and integrate all financial support into one system for parents to help those who most need it.
Other suggestions to reduce the cost of childcare include using more volunteers as well as merging businesses back-office operations.
Neil Leitch, chief executive at the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said that he welcomed the report’s attempts to tackle some of the challenges in the sector, but that it was not clear how well some of these would work in practice.
“Using volunteers in place of paid practitioners may seem an easy way to reduce staff costs in theory, but in practice, the ever-rising levels of paperwork and administration involved in running a childcare provision means that, in many areas, the recruitment and retention of volunteers is becoming increasingly difficult,” he said. 
“Similarly, while sharing back-office functions may go some way to cutting costs for some providers, the sector-wide impact of such a move is likely to be limited.”
He appreciated that given the sector’s underfunding for many years, it is right and sensible to look at other approaches, but added that ultimately, adequate government funding is crucial to the sector’s long-term sustainability.
“As such, we hope that the new prime minister, new chancellor and new education secretary will look to tackle the long-standing issues of early years underfunding as a priority as they start in their new roles,” Neil said.