Early years settings under pressure to deliver the places parents need  

The Coram Family and Childcare’s latest annual survey, published today reveals that the availability of childcare places is decreasing across Britain and that parents are facing above-inflation childcare costs.

The report also highlights that there is insufficient childcare for children with disabilities and a particular lack of childcare places for families in rural areas.  

This latest research by Coram spotlights the crippling costs of childcare that parents are facing with a part-time nursery place (25 hours per week) for a child under two now costing an average of £158 per week.  This figure is up seven per cent on 2023 with providers left with no choice but to increase fees to remain sustainable.   

The report details the most expensive area in Britain for childcare being inner London, where parents pay an average of £218 per week for one part-time nursery place.  

Wales 

Early years providers in Wales are under significant pressure with 89% reporting that the costs associated with recruiting and retaining staff is decreasing provider sustainability and 72% reporting that the cost of staff in general is decreasing sustainability. 

As a result, 78% of local authorities report that providers in Wales have increased prices charged to parents. 

Further findings from the Coram Family and Childcare’s annual survey on Wales include: 

  • Availability of places for disabled children is up by 5%, but is still only 5%, an increase from zero  
  • Availability of childcare in rural areas is zero per cent and parents working atypical hours is also zero per cent  
  • Lowest price increases in UK  
  • Sufficiency of places has reduced for children under two, down 1% and for two-year olds down 31% 
  • The 30-hour entitlement for 3 and 4-year-olds has reduced by 13% (37% to 24%) 
  • lmost half of local authorities in Wales (47%) report that the funding rates for the funded Childcare Offer is decreasing sustainability 

Local authorities in Wales also report that ‘at least some’ of their local childcare providers: Reduced their opening hours (33%) Increased staff ratios (17%) and/or reduced their numbers of staff (39%) These steps could have a negative impact on the affordability, accessibility and quality of provision for all children in Wales. 

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA said: “Expanding the offer made to parents in Wales is a priority but this data shows there are a lot of challenges already in the system that need to be addressed before embracing any expansion plans. 

“We are increasingly concerned about the sustainability of childcare providers across Wales. Our survey shows that 91% of nurseries expect to make a loss or break even this year and 89% of councils in Wales have told Coram that recruitment costs are reducing sustainability of providers. In addition, half the local authorities report that the Childcare Offer funding rate is reducing sustainability.  

“This is worrying for the sector and for the families who rely on childcare, who are going to find it more difficult to find places for their children especially for two-year-olds and the Childcare Offer for three and four-year-olds. 

“There are also very few places for children with Additional Learning Needs (ALN) although that has improved slightly on last year and low levels of wraparound childcare for school-aged children. 

“The sector desperately needs support so that providers can focus on the high quality Early Childhood Play, Learning and Care that delivers the best outcomes for children and supports families while boosting the economy.” 

Scotland 

Reporting on the sustainability of early years providers in Scotland, the Coram report found that 24% of local authorities cite the cost of recruiting and retaining staff as decreasing sustainability and 24% also cite parents’ and carers’ abilities to pay for places as decreasing sustainability.   

The Coram report also highlighted that 19% of local authorities reported that providers have increased prices charged to parents. 

Additional findings from the Coram Family and Childcare’s annual survey on Scotland include: 

  • Fewer LAs have sufficient for disabled children -4% 
  • Lowest prices in UK although prices are having to increase to parents 
  • There has been a sufficiency reduction in places in most areas, down 33% for 2 year-olds and a decrease of 30% for 1140 hours   
  • The level of provision for both the three and four-year-old 1140 hour entitlement and the two-year-old funded entitlement has decreased significantly since last year (from 96% and 75% respectively). 

Purnima told the press: “It’s a big concern that there are significantly fewer places for eligible two-year-olds and for threes and fours on the 1140 hours schemes which have dropped by around a third compared with last year. Coram has also highlighted a drop in sufficiency in places for children with a disability and in NDNA’s own survey we have seen providers in some areas struggling to access support for children with additional needs. 

“Scotland has the lowest charges across the UK so providers are trying really hard to keep costs as low as possible for families. Nurseries and other private providers play a key role in supporting children across the country and must be supported with equity of funding compared with public providers and support with recruitment and retention of staff.” 

England  

With the first phase of the government’s childcare expansion to be rolled out just weeks away, the Coram report reveals a decrease in childcare places across all areas of provision.  

Additional points to note from the Coram Family and Childcare’s annual survey on England include: 

  • Just 6% of councils reporting sufficient childcare for children with disabilities, a decrease of 12% on 2023 meaning that disadvantaged children are missing out 
  • Only 34% of English councils report sufficient childcare for parents working full-time, a decrease of 14% in 2023.  
  • Only 35% of English councils are report enough childcare for children under two, down 14% on last year.  
  • Decreases in the availability of childcare across all areas of provision including for parents working atypical hours (down by 7%) and families in rural areas (down 14%). 

Councils in England have concerns over the delivery of the government’s childcare expansion plan:  

  • 63% of councils in England are ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ that there will be enough places to meet demand for the imminent expansion (15 free hours for two-year-olds), 
  • 28% say the same about the expansion from September 2024 (15 free hours from nine months) 
  • This falls to 12% for the September 2025 expansion (30 hours from nine months).   

Purnima said: “The findings from today’s Coram report echo the concerns we have seen from providers. Although early years settings have been working hard to deliver the places parents need, rising costs, uncertainty on funding and workforce pressures have made it a real challenge. 

“Our provider survey found a similar parental fee increase, which puts a lot of pressure on families, but providers report that their staffing bill alone will increase by an average of 14% from April. These figures are not sustainable. 

“We also know that accessing support for children with SEND is becoming more difficult for providers with councils likely to be overspent in their high-needs budget. This makes it more challenging to meet the individual needs of those children and harder to provide the right places for them. 

“The Budget was an opportunity to provide immediate support to the sector but the much-needed additional funding will not arrive until 2025. This worrying report shows that families, providers and councils are facing immediate challenges ahead of April’s expansion.” 

Similar Articles

Ofsted Complaints Handling – you can now pause or defer an inspection 

Ofsted has updated its policies on complaints handling including pausing an inspection in exceptional circumstances.…
Read more

Childcare expansion begins from 1 April for parents of two-year-olds

The first phase of the government’s planned childcare expansion started 1 April which is set…
Read more