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Children’s Centres have the potential to increase the number of childcare places they provide for disadvantaged two –year-olds by more than a third, according to new analysis by national children and families charity 4Children.
Initial analysis from 4Children’s annual Children’s Centre Census, the only national survey of its kind which is due to be published in October, reveals that half of all Children’s Centres, a total of around 1,650, already provide childcare. Across the country Children’s Centres provide a total of 18,300 places for disadvantaged two-year-olds. According to the census, a further 6,200 two-year old places will be offered over the coming year, an increase of more than a third.
One in three Children’s Centres say they could offer more childcare for children of all ages and 4Children estimates that this could lead to the total number of 50,000 available childcare places at Children’s Centres more than doubling to 118,000. Many or all of these could be used for disadvantaged two-year-olds.
4Children Chief Executive Anne Longfield OBE said:
Our Census shows that a significant number of Children’s Centres are planning to provide more childcare over the next year. Around 1,100 could provide additional places if given extra support or direction from local authorities.
This is an important development which could support the expansion of the offer of 15 hours a week of free childcare for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds. Children’s Centres are located in some of the most deprived areas of the country and provide the wider family support that children and their families need. This makes them ideal locations to deliver the offer with a real potential to develop new childcare places for three and four-year-olds too.”
According to the census, one in three Children’s Centres say they could offer more childcare for children of all ages if asked by local authorities, with one in ten Children’s Centres not currently offering any places having the space to do this. This would significantly help develop additional childcare places in disadvantaged areas to meet growing demand for places under the free childcare offers for two, three and four-year-olds.
There is a well recognised shortage of high quality childcare places in areas of disadvantage which Children’s Centres are clearly able to respond to. We urge local authorities to examine the potential for more childcare places in Children’s Centres and work with partners to deliver them. This will reinstate the childcare that many ceased to deliver when the requirement to provide was removed in 2011."
4Children believes that Children’s Centres have the potential to play a wider role in the coordination of services locally. 4Children is developing childcare hubs, a new approach to delivering quality, flexible childcare which coordinate the childcare options in the area surrounding a children’s centre to help families find out about the childcare options and piece together a package of childcare tailored to meet their needs.
Anne Longfield said:
During the next decade we would like to see the amount of childcare extended to 25 hours a week for all children aged between one and four. We are calling on all the main political parties to sign up to a universal guarantee of quality, affordable childcare for every parent who needs it.”