The Government may have underestimated demand for its free childcare scheme by as many as 100,000 places new research suggests.
From September, parents of all three- and four year-old children will be entitled to 30 hours of free childcare per week, double the current allowance. Government estimates suggestion around 390,000 children will be eligible, but the Pre-School Learning Alliance claims the actual figure may be as high as 478,000, nearly 25 per cent more than the official estimate.
The Alliance is a membership organisation for early years organisations. It based the figure on a poll of families with young children.
The educational charity claims an additional 22,000 children could become eligible as well, Children & Young People Now reports. This would occur if their parents’ working hours changed to a modest degree, bringing the total to no less than 500,000 youngsters, nearly 30 per cent more than the official estimate.
Chief Executive Neil Leitch said:
“The Department for Education has been clear that the whole point of restricting the scheme to ‘working families’ is to encourage parents to go back to work, yet they don’t seem to have factored even the most modest of adjustments into their figures, such as parents working a few more hours to become eligible.”
A significant number of daycare centres and nurseries are planning to limit free hours or opt out altogether, he added.
“…it’s clear that the government is heading for a childcare capacity crisis.”