Nursery provision in 'crisis', warns Labour

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Figures obtained by the Labour party show the number of early years places fell by more than 45,000 between 2009 and 2015.

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Labour's shadow early years minister Tulip Siddiq

According to the House of Commons Library data, the number of early years places fell from 1,332,903 on 30 September 2009 to 1,287,091 on 31 December 2015. This is a loss of 45,812 places.

There was also a decline of 15,749 early years providers, reveals the data.

Labour’s shadow early years minister Tulip Siddiq said the figures show that nursery provision is in ‘crisis’ and ‘deepening by the day’.

Currently eight ‘early implementer’ local authorities are taking part in a pilot of the 30 free hours childcare for parents of three- and four-year-olds.

Ms Siddiq said the Government had failed to invest, 'which then leaves nursery providers to pick up the tab, by providing twice the childcare for less money.

‘These figures show how our youngest children are paying the price for the Government’s failure. Tens of thousands of children are being denied the best start in life they deserve through the loss of so many nursery places and providers.’

She went on to warn that the new funding formula threatens to drive thousands more providers out of business.

In August, the Government announced plans to introduce a ‘fairer’ funding system for nurseries, pre-schools and childminders to help them deliver the 30-hour free childcare offer.

The new funding formula is expected to replace the current system, which is based on how much a council has historically spent rather than how much it costs to meet local need.

A six-week consultation on the proposed formula was held in August, but the Government has yet to publish its response.

The shadow early years minister is now calling on the Chancellor Philip Hammond to use the Autumn Statement to allocate enough money to ensure the 30 hours free childcare promise is kept, as well as to provide long-term funding to protect nurseries from closure.

A DfE spokesperson said, 'This Government is determined to make this a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. We are investing a record £6 billion in childcare by the end of this Parliament - more than any previous Government has done - and providing £50 million in capital funding for the expansion of childcare places.
 
'Latest figures show an increase in the number of providers from last year, with more three- and four-year-olds benefiting from a funded early education place. We are also doubling the free childcare offer for three- and four-year-olds to 30 hours for working parents - building on the success of the existing 15 hours offer which is now accessed by almost 1.34 million children.'
 
The Government is committed to delivering 5,000 childcare places for the 30 hours free offer in the eight Early Implementer areas and says that more than 3,000 places have been taken up so far.

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