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Flexible childcare campaign urges funding reallocation

A new campaign launched by the Family and Childcare Trust is calling for the reallocation of funding to make childcare more flexible.

Investing in Flexible Childcare urges the government to use the £535 million savings from the delay to the roll-out of the tax-free childcare scheme towards a capital spending programme to bring more flexibility to childcare for parents.

The campaign report claims that the savings should be used ‘to make sure childcare settings are able to offer existing and expanded free hours of childcare at times when working parents need them’.

The charity’s proposal would see capital funding directed at local authorities and childcare providers, hoping up to 933,000 children with working parents access flexible childcare per year, it claims.

More than 200,000 unemployed mothers with pre-school children eligible for free childcare would also be supported to work, according to the report.

A petition has been set up by the Family and Childcare Trust in support of its call to chancellor George Osborne to reallocate the savings from the tax-free childcare delay.

Julia Margo, the charity’s chief executive, said: “The expansion of free childcare is really positive news for parents, but we’re concerned that right now parents are struggling to access the existing 15 hours of free childcare because childcare provision is so inflexible.

“We want the chancellor of the exchequer to use the Autumn Statement to reaffirm the government’s commitment to supporting working parents struggling to pay for and find the childcare they need.”

While welcoming the campaign, the Alliance has cautioned that the focus should be on revenue funding for the whole childcare sector.

Chief executive Neil Leitch said: “While capital funding is vital to the long-term viability of any early years business, given that research commissioned by the Alliance last year revealed a current funding shortfall of £354 million for PVI settings alone, it’s clear to us that revenue funding - and, more specifically, plugging this gap across the sector as a whole - should be the primary focus of any reallocation of resources.

“This is even more critical in light of government plans to extend the three- and four-year-old free entitlement offer to 30 hours from next year, and the additional financial pressures this will inevitably put on providers already struggling to stay afloat.”