Many constituents have contacted me about the childcare sector.
Early years providers are an essential part of the social and economic fabric of our country. The pandemic has exacerbated the funding crisis in this sector, and I share the concerns about the severe challenges facing nurseries, childminders and other early years settings.
Throughout this crisis, early years providers have essentially been asked to take on the responsibilities of schools but the liabilities of businesses, and with nowhere near the same level of financial support given to other businesses.
Before the start of the year, the Government had been basing early years funding on pre-coronavirus levels of attendance. The Government’s funding change in January stopped this and pushed thousands of early years providers to the brink of collapse.
I have supported efforts to warn that thousands of childcare providers would shut their doors forever without better support. Sadly, 2,500 childcare providers have already been lost since the start of this year. Our worst fears are being realised, with children, parents and our economy suffering as a result.
The cost of childcare has been driven up at a time when the pandemic has squeezed family budgets. Parents are paying 4% more for childcare for children under two and 5% more for children aged two than they were a year ago.
Since well before the pandemic the sector has needed more support. The number of childcare places fell by 14% between 2015 and 2020. On top of the 12,000 early education and childcare providers that have been lost since 2015, 30,000 more are at risk of closure within a year. Millions of parents – particularly mothers – rely on formal childcare in order to work and analysis shows that 345,000 women would be at risk of losing their jobs if more childcare providers were lost.
It is no surprise that a petition calling for an independent review of childcare funding and affordability has now attracted the 100,000 signatures needed to be considered for a debate in Parliament.
I believe that Ministers should act now and take urgent steps to prevent further childcare closures and rebuild this essential infrastructure after a decade of neglect.
I’m afraid that I was unable to attend the debate but attach a copy of the Hansard: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-09-13/debates/55E6BB12-54B7-4C08-8D68-00140DFFB5B1/Childcare
Hilary Benn MP