Childcare ‘deserts’ crisis

Community has warned of a national crisis for childcare following the publication of a report which shows that 1.5 million children in England are living in ‘childcare deserts’.

The new report, co-authored by the New Economics Foundation and The Social Guarantee, estimates that 44% of children under five live in an area where there are more than three children for each early years’ placement.

Helen Osgood, Community Union’s National Officer for Education and Early Years, said:

“This new report reiterates concerns from across the sector about the prevalence of childcare deserts across England; a crisis that is most acute in poorer areas where childcare settings have shut due to inadequate government funding.

“The situation is already dire, and there’s a real risk that things will get worse. The government’s announcement on funding for an increase in early years and wraparound childcare places in England from April 2024 hasn’t been accompanied by a commitment to investing in the workforce.

“There’s been no tangible commitment to workforce development – even though ministers know full well that it takes two years to train a worker in the childcare sector – and no movement on the low wages which are a barrier to attracting new workers to the sector. And given that current levels of government funding for the ‘free’ childcare entitlement do not cover the costs of provision, the planned expansion of the scheme will lead even more valued settings to the brink as they are unable to afford to operate.

“We are facing a national crisis for childcare provision, and the government seems unwilling or unable to rise to the challenge. Unless there is a change of course, we will see more and more of these childcare deserts emerging across England – and our children will pay the price.”

The new report from the New Economics Foundation – ‘A fair start for all’ – is available to read online here:

Community is the union for education and early years professionals: representing teachers, headteachers, education, school support staff and early years staff. With over fifty years’ experience, we represent members and campaign to improve conditions for education and early years professionals. We are a modern trade union, campaigning for a better working world.

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