Warning of setting capacity ahead of free hours expansion


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Almost all councils are warning that an escalation of nursery closures linked to the cost-of-living crisis “will undermine capacity” when the government extends free childcare. Nine out of 10 council representatives surveyed have said they fear closures will put the plans, which include offering working parents of two-year-olds 15 hours of funded childcare a week from April next year, at risk.

The Local Government Association (LGA) published survey found that two in five councils saw an increase in nursery closures during 2022 compared with the previous year. Four in five councils believe nursery closures in 2023 “will be significant”.

LGA Children and Young People Board chair Louise Gittins said; We have serious concerns about the ability of local areas to secure nursery places, with capacity issues providing challenges to the universal rollout of the extended offer.

“Nurseries and childcare providers are already under massive pressure, grappling with severe financial and workforce challenges, which has seen staff numbers depleted and an acceleration in places closing.”

According to the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) there has been a 50% increase in nursery closures over the last year, with areas of deprivation being hardest hit.

NDNA chief executive Purnima Tanuku says the LGA’s findings are a “clear warning” to ministers that expansion of funded hours “risks failure without interventions to support the sector”.

“For years we have been showing how nurseries are facing increasing pressures due to spiralling costs and chronic underfunding,” she said.

“Now councils are joining providers and parents in showing real concern for the viability of future expansion if we don’t fix the current system.”

Between August 2021 and August 2022, 302 nurseries and preschools closed and the number of childcare providers including childminders fell by 5,400, according to figures released by Ofsted.

“It is frankly unbelievable that the government wants to expand the 30-hour offer at a time that the sector is facing its most challenging time in decades,” said Early Years Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch.

“Our own research finds that childcare shortages are increasing – just half of local areas have enough childcare for working parents, and only 18% have enough childcare for disabled children,” said its head Megan Jarvie.

“The extension of free childcare has the potential to be a game-changer for families struggling with childcare costs, but action is needed to make sure that there will be enough places for every family that needs it.”

The full story, as reported by Children & Young People Now can be found here.

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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