More families struggle to find childcare places and face “eye-watering fees”.

More families in England are struggling to find childcare places, facing higher costs and disadvantaged children “at risk of being missed”, a charity has warned.

Fewer than one in five (18%) local authorities in England report that there are enough childcare places for disabled children, down from 21% last year, according to Coram Family and Childcare’s annual survey.

The survey found that the average price of a half-day nursery place (25 hours) for a child under two is now £148.63 across the UK, and even higher in England (£150.89).

According to the charity’s report, the high costs are “parents losing their jobs” and gaps in access “put disadvantaged children at risk of missing out”.

The report is based on surveys of local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales returned to the charity between November 2022 and February 2023. In total, 191 local authorities returned data.

Along with staggering bills, parents are facing widening gaps in the childcare they need.

Megan Jarvie, Coram Head of Family and Childcare

Only half (50%) of local authorities in England reported having enough childcare places for children under two, compared to 57% in 2022.

The survey also found that the number of local authorities in England who believe there is enough space for 15 hours of free childcare a week for three and four-year-olds has fallen from 79% last year to 73% this year.

The report calls the lack of access to early education “particularly concerning.”

It states: “Early education holds the potential to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, and since its implementation has helped achieve this very goal.

“At a time when this gap is widening, it is vital that every child has access to high-quality education and care that enables them to learn in school and beyond.”

Ahead of next week’s Budget, the charity is calling on the government to reform the childcare system to ensure every child is guaranteed a place and parents only pay as much as they can afford.

Megan Jarvie, head of Coram Family and Childcare, said: “The need for childcare reform is urgent. Along with staggering bills, parents face gaps in access to the childcare they need.

“As the Chancellor decides his Budget, we urge him to recognize the value of investing in childcare – a wise investment that allows parents to work and improves outcomes for young children.”

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, said on Thursday that reforming the childcare system would be her “number one priority in government” if Labor wins the next general election.

Speaking to think tank Onward, Ms Philipson says Labor will not spend taxpayers’ money on the Conservatives’ free childcare hours scheme because the party’s analysis shows childcare costs are now more expensive. previously introduced free childcare hours.

His speech came as the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) released new survey results showing that 98.4% of nurseries in England do not have funding rates covering the costs of delivery.

An NDNA survey of 477 nurseries in England between January and February found that 83% of nurseries expect to make a loss or just break even.

Purnima Tanuk, CEO of NDNA, said: “After all the cost increases in April, we will see childcare providers struggling to survive.

“The Government must recognize the full scale of this crisis and step in to meaningfully support the early years sector before it is too late.”

A government spokesman said: “The number of childcare places available to families in England has remained stable since 2015 and standards remain high, with 96% of providers rated as good or excellent.

“We recognize that families and early years providers across the country are facing financial pressure, which is why we have spent more than £20 billion supporting families in childcare over the past five years.

“This Government has also doubled the entitlement of working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds to 30 hours and introduced 15 free hours a week for disadvantaged two-year-olds.”

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