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Government’s flagship childcare policy 60,000 places short, new figures show

MWP_PR_070314_WC1-03413.jpg.ashx.jpgMinisters will fail to deliver on their flagship childcare policy for two year olds, new figures from Lucy Powell MP show. With 3 months to go until 40 per-cent of two-year-olds are entitled to 15 free hours early education and childcare, FOI data collected by Lucy Powell MP shows that nearly half of Councils won’t have enough early years places and will be at least 60,000 places short of the number they need.

Also two-thirds of councils don’t have sufficient high quality places for disadvantaged two-year-olds despite the government’s pledge that only good and outstanding childcare providers will receive government funding for two-year-olds.

Commenting on the crisis in the government’s flagship childcare offer for the 40% most disadvantaged two year olds Labour’s Shadow Minister for Childcare and Children Lucy Powell MP said:

“Despite plenty of warning, the government is way off track in delivering its flagship childcare policy for 2 year olds. David Cameron promised 260,000 parents and children a free 15 hour place this September yet with just three months to go Ministers are failing to deliver. Nearly half of councils lack sufficient places; and two thirds of council’s don’t have enough quality places to make the biggest difference to children’s life chances.

Labour understands the pressure parents’ face. We’d extend free provision for three and four year olds from 15 to 25 hours per week for working families and introduce a primary childcare guarantee to help families manage work and caring. This is on top of the government’s tax free scheme. Parents and children would be better off with Labour.”

Notes to editors

On disadvantaged two year old places
• The Government promised 15 hours a week of childcare for 130,000 disadvantaged two year olds from last September.[1] This will doubled to 260,000 two year olds from September 2014.[2]
• In September 2014 last year, David Cameron said during Prime Ministers Questions that he was “confident” all the disadvantaged two year olds were receiving this free childcare.

“We have put in place the funding to provide that for the disadvantaged two-year-olds and I am confident that they will receive the services they deserve.”
David Cameron, Hansard, 4 September 2013, c312

• In October 2014 last year, Childcare Minister Liz Truss told the Education Select Committee that she had received no evidence that there was a shortage of childcare places for two year olds.

“I have not received any evidence that there is a shortage of places for two year olds.” Liz Truss, 15 October 2013, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmeduc/uc364-vi/uc36401.htm

• Yet Childcare Minister Liz Truss revealed in May 2014 that 35,000 of these initial 130,000 eligible two year olds were still without a childcare place. She updated the number of places today in Parliament to say that 116,000 two year olds are in places this is still 14,000 places short from the promise of 130,000 places for the most disadvantaged 20 per-cent.

• New research by Lucy Powell MP conducted between April and June 2014 reveals that the government is set to fail to deliver sufficient places for the 260,000 eligible two year olds by the September 2014 deadline. 43 per-cent of councils do not have enough places available with a shortfall of around 50,000 places (48,618 places missing). This is on top of 14,000 two year olds currently missing out on a place. Taking the total shortfall to around 85,000. Many of the councils missing places said they did not expect to have secured sufficient places until mid-to-late 2015.

This table sets out responses from local authorities on whether they expect to have secured a sufficient number of places for every two year old who will become eligible for free nursery education in September 2014. (please answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’) (note: 8 local authorities did not respond):
LA response Number %
Yes 81 55.86%
No 64 44.13%
Total responses 145

On childcare quality places for disadvantaged two year olds
• In a letter to local authorities on 18th December 2013 Minister Truss highlighted the importance of quality care and that the successful delivery of early learning for two-year-olds relied on ensuring that available places are being offered to two-year-olds.
“Effective implementation of this programme is key to improving the attainment and life chances of some of the most vulnerable children. It also provides an opportunity to support parents return to or extend their work or training, benefitting the maternal labour market and economic growth locally.
Research evidence is clear that high-quality early education is critical to the success of the two year olds programme. The government expects local authorities to fund places in any settings that are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. Our aspiration is that all eligible two-year-olds are able to receive early education in good and outstanding provision but local authorities may fund places in satisfactory/requires improvement settings and place funding conditions on those providers to address concerns raised by Ofsted.”
• FOI analysis by Lucy Powell MP has revealed that two thirds of councils have not secured enough high quality early years places for the 20 per-cent most disadvantaged two year olds.

This table sets out responses from local authorities on whether they had definitely secured sufficient places for every disadvantaged two year old who became eligible for free nursery education in September 2013 in ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ (Ofsted inspected) settings (please answer with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’):

LA response Number %
Yes 52 35.86%
No 93 64.8%
Total responses 145

• In January 2014 Elizabeth Truss, education and childcare Minister, highlighted her commitment to driving up quality in childcare places.

'Driving up quality to give children the best educational start is one of my key priorities.’ Elizabeth Truss, education and childcare Minister - http://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/nursery-world/news/1141681/shortage-quality-childcare-scheme-risk

• Despite assuring Parliament in November 2013 that free places for two-year-olds are being delivered by good and outstanding nurseries and childminders two thirds of councils do not have enough quality childcare places for disadvantaged two year olds.

Simon Wright (Norwich South) (LD): To make a difference, the additional capacity must be delivered in high-quality settings….

Elizabeth Truss: I completely agree with my hon. Friend. We are ensuring that those places are delivered by good and outstanding nurseries and childminders.

• A recent Sutton Trust Report highlights the importance of good quality early years provision, particularly for two-year-olds. The report criticised the government’s delivery of the free 15 hours entitlement for the 20% most disadvantaged two year olds.
"The importance of ensuring good quality provision cannot be overstated. Worryingly, our review suggests that much current provision is not yet fit for purpose, risking the success of the programme in achieving its stated aims,"
• Nick Clegg has said extending free childcare for two-year-olds is a key Liberal Democrat achievement but this policy is failing to deliver for parents and children.
"Early access to high-quality childcare is vitally important to ensure children are ready for school, ready for the world and able to get a good start in life.
"Giving disadvantaged children early support gives them the best possible chance to succeed, it means they're less likely to fall behind their wealthier classmates and it can make a huge impact on their future. It is vital for a fair and prosperous society." https://www.gov.uk/government/news/92000-2-year-olds-already-receiving-free-childcare
• The offer for disadvantaged two year olds is an extension of the last Labour Government’s programme for all 3 and 4 year olds to receive 15 hours a week of free childcare. At conference last year, Labour announced its plans to extend free childcare for working parents from 15 to 25 hours for 3 and 4 year olds.
- See more at: http://www.lucypowell.org.uk/news/157/governments-flagship-childcare-policy-60000-places-short-new-figures-show.aspx#sthash.XrM2CjON.dpuf

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