A third of local authorities do not have enough two-year-old places

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A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Labour reveals that one in three councils believe they do not have enough places to meet the Government’s two-year-old offer.

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The Government has promised 15 hours a week of free childcare for 130,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds from September.

Department for Education figures earlier in the month revealed that 92,000 of the disadvantaged eligible two-year-olds have so far taken up the offer, leaving 38,000 places unclaimed.

From September 2014, the number of two-year-old places is set to double to 260,000.

According to the FOI data, more than 30 per cent of councils are unsure or do not think they will be able to secure enough places for the extension of the offer.

In October, the education and childcare minister Elizabeth Truss stated to the Education Select Committee that she had received no evidence that there was a shortage of childcare places for two-year-olds.

The Labour party has argued that the Government are in denial as their flagship childcare policy fails.

Shadow childcare minister Lucy Powell said, 'A reason that councils don't have enough places is because we have seen a stripping away of daycare provision from Sure Start children's centres. Now that many centres aren't deilvering provision, local authorities are having to rely on voluntary and private settings to provide the places.'

Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), said, ‘PACEY is concerned to hear that many councils are struggling to offer enough free childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds. However, we also know that many good and outstanding childminders are struggling to access funding for the free entitlement. This clearly points to the fact that there needs to be more effective working partnerships between local authorities and childcare professionals. This is essential to ensure families have access to broader options for their childcare and that quality of provision remains high.
 
'It is unclear whether figures from the FOI request relate solely to ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ providers in which case there may well be more who require improvement. If this is the case the Government needs to ensure it is doing all it can to help local authorities deliver the training and support that these childcare settings need to improve their service provision. All the evidence shows these very young children only thrive in the best quality settings.’

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