The Government’s popular policy of offering 30 hours of free childcare for working parents of three and four year olds is at risk of not living up to parents’ expectations. New research from Family and Childcare Trust found that a third of local authorities don’t know whether there will be a reduction in the quality of care available as a result of the roll out of the 30 hours offer.
Family and Childcare Trust surveyed all English local authorities on what impact they expect from the change to free childcare entitlements. The findings raise significant concerns about whether families eligible for the 30 hours will even be able to access it – only a third of local authorities thought that there would be enough childcare available for three and four year olds using the 30 hour offer.
In the longer term, we could also see childcare providers going out of business with 44 per cent of local authorities saying that the 30 hour offer would reduce the financial sustainability of some settings.
Family and Childcare Trust is also publishing No Shortcuts: quality and the free childcare extension. This research is based on interviews with childcare providers and local authority staff and focus groups with parents.
No Shortcuts: quality and the free childcare extension, funded by Community Playthings, found that childcare providers and local authorities were worried that the policy change could mean that there was less childcare available, reduce the quality of care, and that settings might find it harder to meet the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities.
It also found that the extension of the free hours could compromise the things that parents felt were priorities for high quality childcare.
The quality of childcare is vitally important: only high quality childcare helps to boost children’s attainment and ‘close the gap’ between disadvantaged children and their wealthier peers (1).
Ellen Broomé, Deputy Chief Executive of the Family and Childcare Trust said,
“We know that only high quality childcare help boost poorer children’s learning. And while working parents are pleased to receive more hours of free childcare, they are not willing to cut corners on childcare quality. As this policy rolls out, the Government must make sure that all families are able to access the high quality, affordable childcare that they need.”
Other findings from the survey include:
- Over half of local authorities saying that it will bring improved collaboration between settings
- Half of local authorities didn’t know whether there would be:
- Reduced availability for families on the 15 hour offer
- Less flexible hours available for parents on the 15 hour offer
- Not enough childcare for three and four year olds entitled to the 15 hour offer
- Not enough childcare for two year olds entitled to the 15 hour offer