Report finds sharp drop in childcare availability in England

A report has found a sharp drop in childcare availability across England over the past year, with only half of local areas reporting sufficient childcare for children under two.

Findings are a decrease of 7% since 2022, and under half of local areas are reporting enough childcare for parents working full-time, a fall of 11% since last year to 48%.

Coram Family and Childcare’s 22nd annual Childcare Survey also found that the cost of childcare across Britain has risen steadily at a time when parents are already struggling to meet costs. A part-time place (25 hours a week) for a child under two now costs an average of £148.63 per week, an annual increase of 5.6%.

toddler pouring sand in brown wooden fence

The most disadvantaged children are at greatest risk of missing out, with less than one in five (18%) local authorities reporting sufficient childcare for children with disabilities, a 3% decrease on 2022.

In addition, 43% of local authorities report that some or many of their local childcare providers have reduced the number of funded early education entitlement places they can provide, and there has been a 6% drop in the proportion of local areas who have enough places for the universal 15 hour early education entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds. Coram described these places as vital in narrowing the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.

The average weekly cost of a part-time place for a child under two is 54% higher in inner London (£199.01) than in Yorkshire and Humberside (£129.32). In outer London, just 28% of local authorities report having enough childcare for children under two, whilst the figure is 100% for the North East.

Megan Jarvie, head of Coram Family and Childcare, said: ‘The need for reform of the childcare system is urgent. As well as eye watering bills, parents are facing widening gaps in availability of the childcare they need. As the Chancellor decides his Budget, we urge him to recognise the value of investing in childcare – it is a wise investment, enabling parents to work and boosting the outcomes of young children.’

Ahead of next week’s Budget, Coram Family and Childcare called on the government to reform the childcare system to create a simpler and more efficient system that prioritises quality, guarantees a childcare place for every child, values the workforce and makes sure that parents only pay what they can afford. While this reform takes place, Coram also called on the government to take the following steps:

Review the funding rate for early education entitlements to ensure that it meets the cost of providing high quality care. Alongside any increases in funding, requirements should be put in place to make sure that it is used to increase the focus on childcare quality and to value the workforce to help alleviate recruitment and retention pressures

  • Reform Universal Credit so it does not lock parents out of work by increasing the maximum amount of childcare costs paid under Universal Credit and guaranteeing support for upfront childcare costs
  • Reallocate underspend from tax-free childcare to other parts of the childcare system and realign government funding towards low-income families
  • Extend 30 hours funded early education to parents in training or education to help parents move into work and out of poverty
  • Improve support for children with SEND through introducing responsive funding to improve staff skills and make more childcare places accessible
  • Double the Early Years Pupil Premium to ensure it is enough to help close the widening attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers

Photo by Markus Spiske


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top