Childcare could soon be a luxury only for the rich, say MPs
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Childcare and Early Education have warned that childcare might soon become a luxury only for the rich in England.
Currently, there is a £66 million funding gap in the UK's free childcare scheme, with parents often having to pay to supplement the government's 30-hours scheme.
The scheme, which increased from 15 hours in 2017, is funded by the government at different levels.
It provides all parents with three-year-olds and four-year olds with 30 hours of free childcare services per week.
Nicole Politis, director of the Portico Nursery Group, has a number of nurseries in different socio-economic areas. She said: "Three years ago, nurseries in these deprived areas were completely full.
"Now, those in affluent areas are full, and in deprived areas the numbers of children attending are so low that I'm having to close them.
"Sadly, some parents cannot afford the additional fees, and this is being exacerbated by the roll-out of Universal Credit.
"In the end, this means that the [30-hours] scheme is not always reaching the most vulnerable families."
A report by The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Childcare and Early Education said: "Should this trend continue, we risk facing a situation where only wealthy families are able to access childcare services, leading to significant reductions in educational opportunities for children, as well as more challenges to parents looking to go back into work."
Critics, such as the minister for children and families Nadham Zahawi, have denied the claim that childcare is becoming a luxury for higher income parents.
Minister Zahawi said there has been a huge increase in the number of children benefiting from 30 hours free childcare.
He posited that this means that parents are spending less on childcare and could work more flexibly.