Child care expansion under threat

The increase in child care places created by the
government’s National Childcare Strategy may be
unsustainable, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned.

Much existing early years provision, especially new provision,
may not be viable says the NAO, the government’s official
auditors. Only half of the new providers who had started up using
government funding knew what they would do when the start-up
funding ended. Many providers fail to cover their costs and
don’t have a good enough understanding of their costs to
judge whether their future is secure.

Although 626,000 new places have been created from the launch of
the measures, there has been a net increase in pre-school places of
only 96,000. This is because more than 300,000 places have closed,
and most of the new places created have been in out of school and
holiday provision, mainly funded by the lottery’s New
Opportunities Fund.

Further growth in the sector is being blocked by lack of the
size of premises, and the size of the workforce. The
government’s target of 8 to 10 per cent a year growth in the
workforce is not being achieved.

Despite increases in the total number of places, there are big
local variations, and few providers are able to care for disabled

Although disadvantaged children get most benefit from good early
years services, there is less provision in the most deprived wards
than in other areas. This is being addressed by the commitment to
create children’s centres in these wards.

The NAO says the Department for Education and Skills is on
course to provide free part-time early education places for all
three and four year olds whose parents want it this year.

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