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parents struggle to access free childcare as 1000 places lost in six months
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Parents struggle to access free childcare as 1,000 places lost in six months

A majority of parents have struggled to access childcare, while nine in 10 think provision is expensive, research has found. A poll by the Early Years charity Kindred found 60% of parents struggled to find a place for their child, and only 18% said it was easy. Some 89% of respondents said childcare is expensive, while 53% found it unaffordable. Only 2% of parents said it was cheap. It comes as the first phase of the Government’s childcare rollout begins today, which will allow parents of two-year-olds to get 15 hours a week of free provision. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt committed to the plan last year, which will expand to 30 hours a week for working parents of children over nine months by September 2025. But early years providers have been sounding the alarm for months over struggles to meet demand, and warning that parents may lose out. New analysis by Labour found the number of childcare places fell by more than 1,000 between March and December 2023. It comes on top of a loss of 40,000 places since the Tories took power in 2010. In a dossier published today by Labour, parents complained of astronomical costs and additional fees, while others reported struggling to access new entitlements with ineffective access codes. Nurseries reported disappointed parents facing long waiting lists due to lack of staff to deliver care. It comes after research by the charity Coram found parents are being forced to pay £158-a-week for a nursery place, while only a third of council areas have enough childcare to meet demand. Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson urged Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to guarantee that eligible parents would not lose out on places and that nurseries would not be forced out of business as a result. She added: “After 14 years of Tory failure, it will be Labour who get on with the job and finally deliver the much-needed childcare for parents.” Ms Phillipson has ordered a review by ex-Ofsted chief Sir David Bell of what she has described as the “broken” childcare system. Felicity Gillespie, Director of Kindred, said: “The current system is an inadequate patchwork, the result of years of our nation failing to prioritise these foundational years that science tells us underpin happy, healthy lives and a prosperous society.” Neil Leitch, of the Early Years Alliance, said: “If there is one thing that the first phase of the entitlement expansion has shown, it’s that simply promising ‘more free childcare’ is meaningless if you’re not willing to invest in the infrastructure needed to deliver it.” The Government said over 150,000 children are on track to secure government-funded places from this week. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We want to give working families the peace of mind that they will be supported and our full expansion will save parents £6900 a year – helping to build a brighter future for families and help to grow our economy.” Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “This is a landmark moment, and I am extremely proud to see we’re on track for more than 150,000 children to take up government-funded places under our new offer. This will be a lifeline for working parents, building up to this government’s plan for the most comprehensive childcare support in this country’s history by 2025.” :: Kindred surveyed 1,048 adults from March 22-26

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