The early years are critical for a child’s development and for determining children’s life chances. Childcare is a fundamental building block of our economy, but I believe early years services have been neglected over the last decade.
I am concerned that chronic underfunding has left nurseries and childminders facing a growing financial crisis. More than 2,500 providers have closed since the start of the year and many talented staff have left. However, the Government has said it is not planning a review of the childcare system or of early years funding.
The pandemic has exacerbated the funding crisis in this sector, and I share your concerns about the severe challenges facing nurseries, childminders and other early years settings.
Throughout this crisis, early years providers have essentially been asked to take on the responsibilities of schools but the liabilities of businesses, and with nowhere near the same level of financial support given to other businesses.
The cost of childcare has been driven up at a time when the pandemic has squeezed family budgets. Parents are paying 4% more for childcare for children under two and 5% more for children aged two than they were a year ago.
Before the start of the year, the Government had been basing early years funding on pre-coronavirus levels of attendance. The Government’s funding change in January stopped this and pushed thousands of early years providers to the brink of collapse.
I want to see action taken to reverse the underfunding of childcare that families rely upon. I believe the Government must now take urgent steps to prevent further childcare closures and rebuild this essential infrastructure.
Children’s recovery after coronavirus should focus on early education and support. I believe we need to ensure every child can recover the learning and social development lost during the pandemic and has the chance to reach their full potential. That is why I support calls for a Children’s Recovery Plan which looks to invest in a two-year Education Recovery Premium. As part of this, I would like to see an increase in the Early Years Pupil Premium, so that funding is available on the same basis as it is in primary schools.
Early years education and childcare must be a key part of our recovery from COVID-19. I can assure you that I will continue to fight for a proper plan to help the childcare sector survive the ongoing situation with coronavirus.