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Childcare crisis hitting poor families hardest

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The early years funding shortfall is having a profound and negative impact on the poorest families in England, a study says.
Publication Date: 
11 Jun 2019
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The country's poorest children are suffering most due to cost-cutting in early education.

Almost one in five childcare providers in England's most deprived areas anticipate they will have to close in the next 12 months, according to a study.

This is more than the 8% seen among more affluent areas.

Independent research agency Ceeda said the early years funding shortfall has risen by almost £50m in the last year to £662m.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance said: "We've heard countless times from ministers about the importance of social mobility and yet the evidence is that their policies are having the opposite effect.

"This report is just the latest in a growing list of studies, including several commissioned by the Department for Education, revealing government childcare policy is failing, even on its own terms.

"This is what a sector in crisis looks like.

"Providers are straining to deliver quality childcare on funding levels set in 2015, leaving them forced to choose between reducing quality and charging ever higher fees or closing their doors.

"There's only one conclusion to draw from this: the government can no longer afford to underfund the early years. It must invest properly in its flagship childcare schemes and review the funding annually to make sure it stays in line with rising costs."

The research included 86 childminders and 270 nursery and pre-school settings from small voluntarily run pre-schools to private nursery groups.

It also found that almost half of providers felt forced to cut back on learning resources and 19% said they had lowered the quality of food given to children in order to make ends meet.

Many pass on the shortfall to parents and one in five said they now required private hours to be taken alongside the government's funded childcare, making it even harder for disadvantaged families to afford.

Some others have limited the number of funded places they offer.

Dr Jo Verrill, managing director of Ceeda, said the findings showed rising costs and widening funding gaps.

She added: "Statutory pay rises, increased pensions contributions and rising business rates are fuelling provider costs, whilst funding rates remain fixed.

"Childcare providers have little choice but to try a range of strategies to recoup or limit losses, from caps on funded places, to cuts in staffing levels.

"Whilst a logical response to financial pressures, these actions have important consequences, particularly for those families least able to pay for early education."

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Entered Date: 
12 Jun 2019
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