Petitions Committee calls for an independent review of childcare funding
By Rachel Lawler
The Petitions Committee has called for an independent review into childcare funding and affordability, as part of its review into support for new parents and families 18 months after its initial investigation into the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
As part of the report, the Committee surveyed 8,700 parents about their experiences, with 93% unable to access baby and toddler groups in the last 12 months and three quarters unable to find affordable childcare.
The Committee also heard evidence from organisations, including the Alliance, about the continued impact of the pandemic on the early years sector.
The report concludes that many of the concerns raised in the Committee’s last report “remain live issues” and laments that the government “failed to acknowledge the need for urgent action”.
In its reccomendations, the report calls on the government to publish a new recovery strategy for new parents and report on its progress next summer. It says: "While not a silver bullet, we hope this will go some way to ensuring these issues receive the profile and priority they deserve, but which they have not received to date."
Alongside the call for a review of childcare funding and affordability, the report also recommends:
- “clear and dedicated guidance” on Covid-safety for community groups, including parent and baby groups
- funding to help support schemes for parents who have missed health visiting checks
- additional funding for perinatal mental health support
- a review of health and safety regulations for pregnant women
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "The committee is absolutely right to call for an independent review into early years funding and affordability at a time when many settings are fighting to remain open and many parents are struggling to balance work and childcare. The pandemic has taken a huge toll on a sector already struggling to remain viable, and clearly, substantial further investment into the early years is needed to ensure that providers can deliver affordable, accessible - and crucially, sustainable - early care and education.
"The report is also right to highlight the need for government to focus its pandemic recovery efforts beyond school-aged children - and while we support the call for greater recovery investment for babies and new parents, much more must also be done to support the recovery of young children attending early years settings, who have seen their access to vital early education disrupted by the pandemic."
"If the government is truly committed to helping families recover from the impact of Covid-19, it must ensure that this includes helping parents of babies and young children to access the services and support they need."