To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 30 June 2022 to Question 25946 on Children: Day Care and her Majesty’s Chief Inspector’s response, what assessment he has made of the impact of nursery and childcare provider closures on the (a) availability and (b) affordability of childcare by region.
The department continues to monitor the sufficiency of childcare. Ofsted publishes the number of places offered by providers on the Early Years Register. This currently shows that the number of places has remained broadly stable since August 2015. Both the national and regional data can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/childcare-providers-and-inspections-as-at-31-march-2022.
Officials from the department are in regular contact with local authority Early Years Leads in England to monitor delivery of the department’s free early education entitlements, including sufficiency of places. All 152 local authorities report that they are fulfilling their statutory duty to secure sufficient childcare for working parents, and children eligible for early education entitlements. Where localised sufficiency challenges have been identified, we are assured that local authorities have plans in place to mitigate these.
According to findings from the 2021 Survey of Childcare and Early Years Providers, 7 in 10 of group-based providers reported having spare places in their full-day provision. Almost half of childminders, 49%, reported having spare capacity on average across the week.
All children aged three and four can access 15 hours of free childcare a week. The department has doubled this for three and four-year-olds in families where parents work, saving them over £6,000 a year. In the Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021, the department announced an investment in additional funding for the early years entitlements, worth £160 million in 2022/23, £180 million in 2023/24, and £170 million in 2024/25, compared to the 2021/22 financial year. This is for local authorities to increase hourly rates paid to childcare providers for the government’s free childcare entitlement offers and reflects cost pressures and changes in the number of eligible children anticipated at the time of the Spending Review.