MPs have warned that the government's plan to expand subsidized child care for working parents will fail if providers are not adequately compensated.
According to a report by the Education Committee, the sector was struggling to provide enough places for students due to inadequate funding.
The inquiry's focus on the sector's challenges has been applauded by early childhood nonprofits. The government has announced that it will increase its payments to childcare providers.
During the school year, parents who work with three- and four-year-olds are able to receive 30 hours of government-funded child care. However, by September 2025, this will be expanded to include children nine months and older.
The committee chair, Robin Walker, stated that the childcare market faced significant "affordability and availability" challenges, and that simply extending the number of hours the government calls 'free' will not suffice unless the funding rates sufficiently reflect the costs of providing excellent early education and childcare.
The report warns that unless the government gets this right, the already-struggling childcare market will experience even more closures and that the sector requires substantial financial and regulatory reform.
MPs also want clearer evidence of the effects of formal childcare on children under the age of two and believe there should be more support for parents who choose to care for their children at home. In many contexts, children who do not receive government-funded hours are charged more to compensate for the hours that the government pays for.
In April, the government will begin instituting the expansion of subsidized child care for working parents, starting with 15 hours for two-year-olds. Ms. Fleury fears that demand will vastly outweigh the number of available places.
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive officer of the National Day Nurseries Association, concurs that "the policy could fail" if it fails to address underfunding. In September, the average hourly wage paid by the government will increase to: Three- and four-year-olds pay between £5.29 and £5.62, £6 to £7.95 is the price range for two-year-olds. Additionally, it is consulting on proposals to increase tariffs for the following year.
In addition, beginning in September, the number of two-year-olds a staff member will be expected to care for will increase, which the report deemed profoundly concerning and recommended be closely checked and changed if the quality or the educational outcomes suffer.
The extensive report included a number of recommendations, with the committee requesting: The commercial rates for nurseries will be eliminated, Training requirements for personnel working with minors with special educational needs and disabilities and application of the teachers' early-career framework to all early-years staff
The report recommends that parents in training or education should also have access to government-funded hours. The Department of Education stated that it was implementing "the single largest investment in childcare in England's history," which will save working parents who use 30 hours of childcare an average of £6,500 per year and provide children with the highest quality early-years education.
An official stated that they will invest hundreds of millions of pounds annually to increase the amounts they pay childcare providers in order to guarantee that they are supporting their outstanding early-years workforce.