Policy and Politics
Local authorities failing in their duty to provide enough childcare
Two-thirds of local authorities are failing to provide enough childcare for parents, according to new research.
Figures released ahead of the Daycare Trust and Family and Parenting Institute’s Childcare Costs Survey this week reveal that one in three local authorities do not offer sufficient childcare provision.
Just one in five local authorities provide enough childcare for children under two, and one in three for school-age children. Only one in seven local authorities have enough childcare for disabled children, a figure which has not improved in five years, says the charity.
Under the Childcare Act 2006 local authorities have a legal duty to ensure a sufficient supply of childcare in their area. However, the statistics show that many local authorities are ignoring their responsibilities.
Earlier in the year, the Department for Work and Pensions published a working paper - Survey of Childcare and Work Decisions among families with Children, which found that a third of parents who want to work more cannot because they are unable to find affordable childcare.
The Daycare Trust and Family and Parenting Institute argues that a lack of childcare, spiralling costs above inflation, stagnating wages and cuts to tax credits mean that parents of young children are being hit at every turn. The charity is calling on the Government to invest more in essential childcare for families in this year’s budget in two weeks' time.
Anand Shukla, chief executive of the Daycare Trust and Family and Parenting Institute, said, ‘Councils across England and Wales are failing families by presiding over a continuing shortage of high quality, affordable childcare.
‘The Childcare Act 2006 was designed to ensure sufficient childcare provision so that anyone could work. At a time when one in five children lives in poverty, the failure to provide this essential service for parents who want to provide for their families is a national scandal.
‘Local authorities have a legal duty to ensure a sufficient supply of childcare in their areas, but no doubt their failure to do so is linked to the tight financial squeeze they find themselves in, with ever more austere funding settlements. Only the Government can address this situation by investing more in providing support for parents.’
A Government spokesperson said, 'By law, councils must make sure there are enough childcare services in their area. Our reforms to give providers more flexibility on staff: child ratios when they have highly qualified staff have been welcomed by the heads of Kids Unlimited, Busy Bees, and My Family Care, as well as Sir Michael Wilshaw of Ofsted and Andreas Schleicher of the OECD.
'We are reforming the childcare system so that providers have more flexibility when they have highly qualified staff and childminders are better supported. Ratio changes, which are not compulsory, will allow providers to have the flexibility to increase pay for better qualified workers. High quality providers will be able to expand and more childminders will enter the market - this will mean parents have more affordable childcare.
'Ofsted will be the only arbiter of quality, removing any council duplication. As a result more taxpayers’ money will go to the frontline.
'We want to help working families with costs and accessibility, and will make an announcement soon.'