Ninety per cent of children eligible for 30 hours free childcare have got a place, according to government statistics.
The first termly statistics show an estimated 202,783 three and four year olds were in a 30 hours place. The Government says the total number of children in a 30 hours place is equal to 90% of the eligibility codes issued to parents.
However, the Pre-School Learning Alliance says local authority level figures reveal that take-up varies according to where you live. It says:
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “While it is undoubtedly positive to see that 30-hour take up figures have continued to rise as the term has progressed, the fact that more than 20,000 parents ended the term having applied for the scheme but without having secured a place should be a real cause for concern.
“Equally worrying is the continued disparity in the numbers of parents able to access 30-hours places across the country.
“It cannot be right that parents in certain areas of the country are facing such a struggle to access places, as these figures suggest. Given that the autumn term is always the quietest for childcare providers, the pressure on places is only going to get worse, and so many parents looking forward to accessing the scheme next term may well be left disappointed next year.
“What’s more, what these figures don’t reveal is how many parents with validated codes are receiving genuinely ‘free’ childcare, and how many are having to subsidise their places by paying for ‘voluntary’ extras. The government knows full well that inadequate sector funding has forced many childcare providers to rely on additional fees and charges to stay afloat, and yet it continues to promote this offer as free, ignoring the fact that it is parents and providers who are having to fill this funding gap.”
The Alliance welcomed, however, the government’s decision to allow foster children to access the 30 hours childcare for three and four year olds.
Leitch said: “We have always said that all children, regardless of background, should get the best possible start in life and so we warmly welcome the government’s decision to allow foster children to benefit from the 30 hours policy.
“All too often, discussions around the 30 hours are fixated on the back-to-work agenda with little consideration given to the impact of policy decisions on the child, and so today’s decision marks a welcome change of focus.
“It is of course vital that, alongside much-needed general early years funding reforms, the sector is adequately supported to deliver the additional places that will be needed as a result of this change, and we await further information on how the government intends to ensure this – but we’re clear that this was the right decision to take.”