The government’s early years strategy risks overlooking
half of the UK’s poor children warns a report by MPs on the
Commons Public Accounts Committee.
The government plans to build children’s centres in the 20
per cent most deprived wards in England, but research suggests that
up to half of children in poverty live outside these areas, many in
relatively affluent neighbourhoods, the report says. “There is a
danger these people may be overlooked.”
The government’s view was that its tax credit approach
goes some way towards helping families according to their income
rather than postcode.
The report says that schools are well placed to meet unmet
demand for child care in deprived areas and in London, but schools
were seen as an underused resource, with many reluctant to provide
Wide variation in the number of child care places between
different areas led the committee to propose that a target minimum
number of places per 100 children should be given to each
Due to the large number of very small businesses in child care,
the report says that publicly funded grants should be conditional
upon the provider having a sound business plan.
The committee found some evidence of professional childminders
not registering with Ofsted – a concession given to informal
carers. The report says this puts quality at risk and threatens
registered providers’ sustainability.
Recent research evidence about the benefits of parental care on
very young children should lead the government to examine whether
there is a genuine choice between parents working and staying at
home with their children, the report adds.