Early years funding shortfall costing parents £1000 a year

According to figures published by the Liberal Democrats, parents of three- and four-year olds accessing the early entitlement offers are paying up to £1000 a year in extra ‘hidden’ fees as a result of funding shortfalls.

Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt is under new pressure to increase childcare funding in the Autumn Statement on 22 November.

The party analysed the Department of Education figures and found that parents in 85% of councils are bridging the gap between the government’s funding of the 30-hour entitlement for three- and four-year-olds and the fees charged by early years settings. 

The research shows that parents pay an average of £19.50 a week or £1,014 a year.

Some councils across the country are witnessing a much bigger shortfall than others.  They include North Somerset where the analysis shows parents face the prospect of paying an extra £70.80 a week for every child in nursery, followed by Brent, north London, at £69.90 a week.

Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats highlight that their analysis shows parents in nine local authorities could face having to pay £45 or more per child per week to cover the deficit.

Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Munira Wilson  stated: “If the Government wants to boost the economy, then it must tackle the gaping hole in childcare costs. 

“The Autumn Statement next week must address this or else families and, ultimately, the economy will continue to suffer. 

“The UK already has some of the highest childcare costs in the world. Parents up and down the country are struggling to afford their nursery fees, while for others, the crippling costs of childcare mean they simply can’t afford to return to work. 

“There is a huge crisis looming with both nurseries and local councils warning of a collapse if the Government doesn’t come forward with proper funding.” 

Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: 

“It is extremely concerning, but sadly not at all surprising, that families have had to pay almost £1,000 per year to access so-called ‘free’ entitlement places.  

“Our 2018 Freedom of Information investigation revealed that, for years, government has been underfunding the early years sector despite knowing that this would mean higher fees for families.  

“Nurseries, pre-schools and childminders do their best to provide affordable early years care and education, but years of underfunding have made it increasingly challenging to do so sustainably. As such, many are left with no option but to pass on shortfalls in government funding to parents in the form of increased fees or additional charges just to keep their doors open.  

“What’s more, unless the upcoming early entitlement expansion is adequately funded, the ‘childcare funding gap’ is only going to widen, which is likely to result in further fee increases, putting even more financial pressure on families at a time when many are already struggling as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.   

“If the government is as serious about tackling the rising cost of early years places as it claims to be, it simply must ensure that both existing and upcoming early entitlement offers are properly funded. This is the only way to guarantee that families will be able to access affordable – and high-quality – early years places, both now and long into the future.” 

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