A new report from Coram Family and Childcare highlights how a recent withdrawal of Covid-related support for childcare providers could lead to more closures and fewer subsidised places.
Fifty eight per cent of local authorities in England believe local childcare providers will permanently close as a result of the withdrawal of Government Covid support in January, according to new research, which warns that parents may face difficulties finding childcare, particularly affordable childcare.
Over the course of the pandemic, the Government has continued to pay early years funding based on pre-Covid enrollment because of falling numbers due to Covid-related job changes and anxiety, but last week it announced that childcare providers will have to revert to funding being allocated based on the actual number of children attending in the new year.
The new research by charity Coram Family and Childcare also found that a quarter (26%) of local authorities say they expect to see providers reduce the number of free early education entitlement places they offer.
It warns that closures are likely to lead to greater shortages in childcare availability for families in a system that was already under pressure pre-pandemic. Over a third (35%) of local authorities report that the number of providers permanently closing in their local area has increased in the last year.
Whilst the majority of local authorities report they have not yet seen an increase in childcare shortages, Coram Family and Childcare says this could be due to the fact that 73% have seen a decrease in demand from families over the pandemic. It adds that, if many providers do close permanently, this could mean significant shortages in childcare supply if and when demand for childcare returns to pre-pandemic levels.
The report also highlights particular concern over the availability of childcare for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and school-age children, saying local authorities are more likely to see a reduction in the number of places compared to demand in both these areas.
Already over a third [39%] say they have seen childcare providers raise their prices and 30% have seen providers increase the number of children looked after by each staff member.
Megan Jarvie, Head of Coram Family and Childcare, said: “The ending of additional Government support for childcare is going to be a blow for many childcare providers and the families who depend on them. We all rely on the childcare sector to support the learning and development of children and to enable parents to work. There are already signs of the pressure on childcare providers – a third of local areas already report an increase in nursery closures and shortages are increasing in some areas. It is vital that the sector is supported so that every family can find the high quality childcare they need.”