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Disadvantaged children miss out on funded hours

By Rachel Lawler
Local authorities are struggling to ensure take-up of funded childcare places for disadvantaged two-year-olds, according to a new report from the Department for Education (DfE).
Based on feedback to the DfE’s Children’s Services Omnibus Survey, the report reveals that 44% of local authorities that responded had experienced difficulties in implementing the funding for disadvantaged two-year-olds.
Lack of funding
The most common reason given for this was eligible parents not wanting or needing childcare for their two-year-old child (34% of local authorities), followed by a lack of funding for publicity and infrastructure development (20%).
16% of local authorities said that they had experienced providers not wanting to offer funded places to eligible two-year-olds.
Universal 15 hours
One in five local authorities said that they had experienced difficulties implementing the universal early education entitlements of 15 hours for all three- and four-year-olds.
38% of local authorities said that the introduction of the 30-hours had caused difficulties for the implementation of the 15-hours offer for disadvantaged two-year-olds.
Disadvantaged children
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “This report makes clear that the government is failing some of our most disadvantaged children. Everyone agrees that the early years is a vital in ensuring children get the best start in life – but this report shows that children from low income families, who stand to benefit most from childcare, can’t rely on the government to ensure they’re able to access it.
“The fact is that ministers were warned repeatedly that providers would struggle to deliver childcare for younger children following the rollout of 30 hours. They chose to ignore those warnings and continue to do so; this study is just the latest to underline the wider impact that frozen and falling funding levels are having, not only providers but also on the children they are able work with.
“It’s simply not right that the government’s flagship childcare policy has meant wealthy parents are receiving funded childcare while those less well-off are not – particularly if one is at the expense of the other. Providers are passionate about helping all children realise their full potential but, until ministers own up to their responsibilities and ensure funding covers the true cost of providing quality childcare, children from poorer backgrounds will continue to miss out.”
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