PARENTS are facing a massive rise in nursery costs and cuts to free childcare after a dire warning.
It comes as soaring costs and staff shortages have seen childcare provision reach crisis point.
Staff are leaving nurseries at an alarming rate and more than eight in ten early years providers are struggling to recruit sufficient numbers.
And now government spending on free childcare for young children in England is set to fall by 8% in real terms over the next two years, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
The Government says it is putting an extra £160m into early years this year.
But new analysis from the IFS says funding is not keeping up with rising energy bills amid the cost-of-living crisis.
It means nurseries will potentially be faced with the choice to either raise their prices or close.
Christine Farquharson, a senior research economist at the IFS, told the BBC: “The more that childcare providers struggle to make the free entitlement work for them financially on the funding rate the government gives them, the more they have to look at a menu of quite unpalatable options.
“That might include limiting access to the children who can get their free entitlement, it might include raising prices on children in other age groups – particularly one and two-year-olds – or, in the worst cases, it might include going out of business entirely.”
Geoff Parkes, whose family run two nurseries in West Yorkshire, has already raised prices and is going to have put them up again.
Geoff said: “We’re looking at the cost of the business absolutely ruthlessly, in terms of how can we save more energy?”
He added that some parents have had to stop sending their children, while others have been cutting down on the number of hours they send them in each week.
Geoff thinks it is vital that parents know that the prices have to rise to keep up the quality of provision, which includes things like forest school, where children play and learn outdoors, to further children’s development.
He continued: “I think there’s a misnomer in the UK that it’s almost quasi-babysitting, and it’s not. We have qualified childcare professionals, experts in their field who are educators.
“We don’t want to start employing lower-cost staff. That can’t be the right thing to do.”
The UK now has the second most expensive childcare in the world.
And the Early Years Alliance says 4,000 nurseries and childminder services have closed in the past year.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, which represents providers said: “Many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are already teetering on the edge of survival.
“It is almost impossible to imagine how the sector will be able to survive with such a significant real-terms funding drop.”
In England, all three and four-year-olds receive at least 15 hours of free childcare per week, for 38 weeks of the year.
This increases to 30 hours for working parents, provided their income meets the eligibility criteria.
Two-year-olds in England are also eligible for 15 hours of free childcare under certain circumstances, for example if the family receives universal credit or the child is in foster care.
It comes as one parent said they had to pay £3,400 a year despite her childcare supposedly being free.
But parents struggling to afford childcare as the cost-of-living crisis bites could be missing out on help worth thousands of pounds
You may have to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips, but the care itself is free..
/ 1 hour ago
BRITS could save almost £850 a year by making six simple changes to their...
/ 2 hours ago
UP to 100,000 nurses will strike for two days next month — with more...
/ 3 hours ago
A GP is treating patients at her practice — from her home 265 miles...