From education to employment

Rising costs and a decline in availability of childcare places

The Coram Family and Childcare’s annual Childcare Survey for 2022 has been released and it has found rising costs and a decline in availability of childcare places.

This report is the 21st annual Childcare Survey. It is based on surveys from local authorities in England,
Scotland and Wales, which were returned to Coram Family and Childcare between November 2020 and
January 2021.

The Childcare Survey 2021 shows the early impacts of Covid-19 on the childcare market and families.
Childcare use has been considerably lower since March 2020 than in usual times, and this survey of local
authorities shows the impact that this and other changes in the childcare sector have had for families.

Childcare prices in England and Scotland have risen above inflation, perhaps driven by childcare providers
trying to adapt their business models to stay viable during this challenging time.

More local authorities than last year have enough childcare in their areas to meet demand, which is more likely to be a result of the reduction in demand for childcare rather than due to an increase in supply.

Childcare providers have been able to receive financial support through the Government’s Job Retention
Scheme, Self Employment Income Support Scheme and changes to funding for free early education
entitlement places, among other support mechanisms which vary between countries.

This support has allowed many providers to stay afloat and enabled parents to be able to continue to find the childcare that they need. It remains to be seen what happens if and when this support ends, and there remains a risk that many providers could close, creating shortages in the childcare available for families.

The pandemic has brought wider awareness of the importance of childcare. Childcare enables parents to
work, it keeps valuable skills in the workforce, and helps children to do better at school, which can narrow
the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. But once again, we find that some parents are
struggling to both find and afford the childcare that their family needs.

Sector Response

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“It is widely accepted that high quality early years education can make a lasting difference to a child’s life.

“The current levels of free childcare access for working families are not sufficient and there is evidence it may be contributing to the recent widening in the attainment gap. As part of the solution, government should make the entitlement for 30 hours of funded childcare and early education universal so that every child has the very best start in life regardless of their background or their family’s circumstances.”

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“These costs are eye watering. It’s extraordinary that at a time when prices are spiralling, the average family is still spending far more on childcare than on their weekly food shop. 

“High quality childcare in the early years and around school boosts children’s life chances, but this worrying decline in available childcare risks limiting parents’ ability to work, putting further pressure on household finances.

“Unlike the government, Labour would put families first. Labour’s Children’s Recovery Plan would make before and after-school clubs available to all, while we would halt the National Insurance tax rise and use a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producers to cut household energy bills by up to £600.”

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