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Expensive childcare probed by MPs

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An inquiry has been launched by the Education Committee to look at childcare affordability and examine why it’s become too expensive for a growing number of families.

The influential cross-party group of MPs has launched the inquiry into the early years education and childcare sector to investigate the current system of subsidised childcare, including tax-free childcare which has been criticised for being “too confusing”.

It comes after a poll of 20,000 working parents last year found that the vast majority (97%) believe childcare is too expensive, with a separate family and childcare survey revealing it costs over £270 a week on average to send a child under the age of two to nursery for a full-time place.

The committee is calling for people in the childcare sector to share their problems, such as recruitment and retention of qualified staff.

A previous report by the Social Mobility Commission revealed that the low pay, high work demand and low social status of workers in the industry helped to contribute to the high staff turnover.

Meanwhile, it will also assess the value and quality of early years education and how effective it is at preparing children for starting school.

It will also look at how education is provided to children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The inquiry comes just days after Labour MP Stella Creasy proposed an amendment to the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill which would see childcare considered as infrastructure, along with schools, GPs and public transport.

‘Parents continue careers and children gain head start to education’

Education committee chair, Robin Walker, said: “The childcare sector is intrinsically important because it has the potential to allow millions of parents to continue with their careers while giving young children a huge head start in their pre-school education.

“It’s vital that we identify solutions to the range of problems and challenges facing the childcare sector in England, understand why the costs have become too dear for many families, and see what the government could do to raise the esteem, affordability and quality of early years education.

“As many have pointed out, getting this right could be a huge boost for the UK’s productivity and the welfare of its future generations.

“It’s no wonder there is so much cross-party hunger to fix childcare. That’s why this committee is perfectly placed to look for a way forward.”

‘Sector reached crisis point’

Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, said: “For far too long, the plethora of challenges facing England’s early years sector has been ignored by the government, and as a result the sector has reached crisis point. Not only have providers been left with no choice but to pass increased costs on to parents, but educators are leaving for better paid and more flexible sectors and the number of setting closures continues to soar.

“As such, this inquiry represents a great opportunity for providers to make their views heard and to share with parliamentarians the impact that years of underfunding, and an overall lack of government support has had on the sector. We hope that policymakers and ministers will be following this inquiry closely.”

Written submissions should be made by 19 January 2023.

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