Thousands of three year olds are missing out on free early education

Today the Family and Childcare Trust, a leading charity in the field of childcare and family issues, has released its annual childcare costs survey, completed by UK childcare and family authorities. Focussing primarily on the cost of UK childcare by region, price trends over time and childcare supply for working parents, the survey highlights some key findings and areas of action for UK childcare.

  • Childcare costs have risen in line with inflation for the first time in eight years
  • Number of reported free early education, as childcare places for three and four year olds has dropped by two thirds since 2015
  • Fewer authorities have reported sufficient after school care
  • 45% of councils in England have enough childcare for working parents, and just 15% had enough care for disabled children (6% less than 2015)
  • Combined price of a part-time nursery place for a child under two and an after-school club for a five year old is now £7,933 a year
  • 11 local authorities reported their average cost for part-time childcare exceeds the Working Tax Credit support cap

The key finding from the 2016 Childcare Costs survey might bring an initial sigh of relief to many working parents in the UK, as average childcare prices have risen in line with inflation for the first time in eight years. However, the report has also highlighted gaps concerning free childcare for younger children, as well as a decline in the number of after school care provided in local authorities.

It seems that childcare providers across the UK are struggling to meet the increasing demand for their services, with an estimated 40,000 three and four year olds missing out on free early education, with the amount of free places dropping by more than two thirds since 2015.  Furthermore, only 9% of local authorities reported sufficient after school care (compared to 28% five years ago), showing an increasing strain on the sector.

Iain McMath, CEO of Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services, a leading provider of childcare vouchers in the UK, comments:

“Today’s report has highlighted the impending struggles that both parents and childcare providers will experience under the government’s overhaul of childcare provision in the UK.

The increasing strain on childcare providers to provide free early education will only worsen once government plans to offer 30 hours of free childcare come into play later this year, with there simply not being enough places available for children that need them. This will ultimately mean parents won’t be able to take advantage of the government scheme, and will instead have to pay the ever-increasing costs for childcare.”

Download the full Family and Childcare Trust Survey >