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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Childcare 'postcode lottery' prevails
nursery
British parents pay the highest childcare fees in Europe
Access to childcare in the UK is determined by a postcode lottery, dependent on where people live, their incomes and employment status, a report concludes.

A leading charity warns the government's national childcare strategy, launched four years ago, needs far-reaching reform and investment to ensure provision for all, at affordable prices.

Without these measures, the inequalities will continue, according to findings published by the Daycare Trust.


We need a rejuvenated national childcare strategy

Daycare Trust director Stephen Burke

This will undermine the government's policy priorities to end child poverty, tackle youth crime, raise educational attainment and reduce the number of families where parents are unemployed, it suggests.

Daycare Trust director Stephen Burke said: "We need a rejuvenated national childcare strategy.

"Without a radical rethink and substantial investment, the government will not be able to fulfil its ambitions not just to deliver childcare for all but to end child poverty."

The Raising Expectations report urges the government to increase investment and review the way it is spent to ensure the future growth and sustainability of services.

Regional variations

It calls for a national programme of children's centres, building on the best of current services in early-excellence centres and neighbourhood nurseries.

There are wide regional variations in the levels of childcare provision, with the best-served region having 82 childminding places for every 1,000 children, compared to 33 in the worst.

British parents pay the highest childcare bills in Europe - typically 120 a week or 6,200 a year for a nursery place for a two-year-old.

The childcare tax credit is helping more families on lower incomes, but only provides a maximum of 70% towards childcare costs with an average payment of 39 a week.


The government is committed to ensuring affordable, accessible and quality childcare is available to parents

Department for Education

This is less than a third of typical nursery fees.

Mr Burke said: "The childcare market is not meeting the needs of British families.

"The pace of change is too slow and in many cases it is invisible to parents.

"The government has an opportunity through its current review to catch up with the needs of families and the wider society.

"Children's centres providing childcare at a price that meets parents' pockets alongside other services are needed in every neighbourhood.

"The government must not duck the childcare challenge."

The government says it is on track to meet its target of 900,000 new places by 2004 - and claims funding will treble.

Postcode lottery
Childminding places: South East - 82 per 1,000; Inner London - 33 per 1,000
Day nursery places: North West - 120; Eastern region - 68
Playgroup and pre-school places: South West -170; Inner London - 40
Holiday scheme places: Inner London - 200; West Midlands - 68

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "The government is committed to ensuring affordable, accessible and quality childcare is available to parents.

"Childcare funding will treble from 66m in 2000-01 to more than 200m in 2003-04, with an additional 155m from the New Opportunities Fund to increase provision in disadvantaged areas."

The spokeswoman also outlined plans to provide a childcare place for every lone parent entering employment in the most disadvantaged areas by 2004.

"But we do not want to stop there.

"We have set up a cross-cutting review of childcare led to establish a vision for childcare during the next 10 years - and the results of this will feed into the summer spending review," said the spokeswoman.

The best-served region for childminding places is the South East and the worst is inner London.

The report also suggests particular groups are missing out, including children under three, disabled, black and ethnic minority children and people aged 10 to 14.

See also:

06 Feb 02 | UK Education
21 Jan 02 | UK Education
06 Feb 02 | UK Education
03 Jan 02 | Business
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