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90,000 more children may need childcare places this year – with over 11,000 nursery staff needed to look after them

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  • Government extension give children over nine months 15 hours of free childcare

An extra 90,000 children may need childcare places this year – but more than 11,000 nursery staff will be required to look after them, research shows.

Ministers are expanding the free hours offer, meaning working parents of two-year-olds can access 15 hours of free childcare from today.

But it is feared the next extension in September, which will make children aged from nine months eligible for the 15 hours, could be very difficult to access.

And analysis of Ofsted data by Labour suggests the number of childcare places available fell by more than 1,000 between March and December last year.

Campaigners warn that fewer mothers will return to work unless the Government increases funding for children at nursery to ensure places are available.

An extra 90,000 children may need childcare this year as a result of the government's free hours expansion, but it is feared the next extension in September will be very difficult to access

An extra 90,000 children may need childcare this year as a result of the government’s free hours expansion, but it is feared the next extension in September will be very difficult to access

An extra 90,000 children are likely to qualify for places this year as a result of the childcare expansion, concludes a report by the Early Education and Childcare Coalition and University of Leeds.

Modelling what it called a ‘conservative approach’ to the total take-up rate, by assuming some families who are currently using informal provision may not be eligible for a new place, it found another 90,241 children aged nine months to two years would qualify for places.

The report states: ‘Delivering the expansion of places… would require an additional 11,340 early years professionals in 2024 and a total of 22,424 in 2025.’ 

But an additional 265,415 children could access the extended entitlement in 2024 if all children currently using informal childcare (from nine months to two years old) move to formal childcare because of the extension of the entitlement. 

Another 265,415 children could access the new extended entitlement this year if all those currently using informal childcare switch to formal childcare

Another 265,415 children could access the new extended entitlement this year if all those currently using informal childcare switch to formal childcare

Labour is today publishing a dossier which includes testimonials from parents complaining of high costs and extra fees to pay, and of 18-month waiting lists.

Joeli Brearley, of Pregnant Then Screwed, told the Mail that free hours for three and four year olds are currently underfunded by £3 per child per hour, and nurseries are being forced to cross-subsidise.

She said: ‘We’re still seeing parents saying I cannot afford to work. They’ve got to increase the funding.’ Ms Brearley added that the current £5.88 per hour for three and four year olds must rise to cover costs.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said of Labour’s childcare dossier: ‘This is a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that they would pull out the rug from tens of thousands of hardworking families adding on average £6,900 to the cost of childcare.’



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