More than half of the centres surveyed said that they no longer provided any on-site childcare, despite an urgent demand for nursery places, with more than 50 per cent of centres saying they were oversubscribed for childcare.
Percentage of Sure Start children's centres planning to reduce staff
Last year, the duty to provide childcare in deprived areas was removed by the Government.
4Children said that the census suggested that around 2,000 children's centres across the country were offering no childcare at all, and that it was concerned about the long-term impact of this on the provision of high-quality, affordable childcare, particularly in more disadvantaged areas.
Those centres that continue to provide childcare have also seen a fall in the number of places they are able to offer: of the 43 per cent of centres that provide full-time childcare places, less than a third of them provide more than 50 places.
'If children's centres are taking decisions to reduce their childcare provision, this may leave some disadvantaged communities with a childcare shortage,' the report says.
It adds, 'Some children's centres are clearly reducing the levels of childcare provided for a range of reasons. This reduces availability for parents and reduces specialist staff in this area. Sure Start centres should further embrace their community leadership role to identify unmet demand for childcare and work with community providers to maintain and develop childcare places to meet demand in and around the centre.
'Local authorities should also consider how children's centres can help support the expansion of places for disadvantaged two-year-olds - working with community providers to extend and enhance existing provision.'
Around 600 Sure Start children's centres took part in the children's centres census during March and April.
Anne Longfield, (pirctured), chief executive of 4Children said, 'The value of Sure Start Children's Centres is clear. Children's centres across the country have demonstrated resilience and creativity, and enjoy overwhelming support from professionals working within the sector, parents and communities.
'Now must be a time for development. There is huge potential for children's centres to play their full part in delivering early help and intervention.
The task is enormous and it is essential that local and central government continue to provide sustained funding.'