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Only 6% of local authorities offer enough SEND childcare

Today Coram Family and Childcare released the Childcare Survey 2024 results, which found that across all children under two, the number of councils offering sufficient nursery and childcare spaces has fallen to fewer than one in three.

While those more general stats are getting the headlines, the figures released in the study are all the more alarming when looked at from the perspective of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

A shocking level of insufficiency

The survey reveals only 6% of local authorities have enough childcare for disabled children – a truly shocking finding. This sharp decline on an already unacceptably low figure of 18% last year reinforces the need for urgent action.

At a time of childcare ‘expansion’, this appalling situation for babies and toddlers with SEND, their families and their futures cannot be ignored. We echo Coram’s calls for immediate action and reform of our childcare system.

Every child should have an equal opportunity to play, learn, grow and thrive. With a severe decline in childcare places available for disabled children, many will face further disadvantage when starting school, having missed out on vital early education.

A triple whammy for parents

With little or no options for childcare, many parents and carers of disabled children simply cannot go to work.

Being unable to work adds to the financial pressure on these parents, who already have higher costs than parents of non-disabled children. On average, disabled households need an additional £1,122 a month to have the same standard of living as non-disabled households (figures from Scope).

And for those who do secure childcare appropriate to their child’s needs, they are facing a hike in costs, as today’s report shows that on average, costs have gone up 7.4% in the last year.

SEND exclusion from the childcare expansion

This report reinforces that children with the greatest need are being already excluded from the Government’s expansion of funded childcare, launching in April.

Historically, as universal funded childcare increases, provision for children with SEND decreases.

63% of local authorities are concerned about sufficiency for children with SEND, and 57% about funding for children with SEND.

Action must be taken to avoid what seems to be an unintended but inevitable consequence of the increase in funded childcare – a further decrease in provision for children with SEND.

We have recently issued our response to the Spring Budget and today’s figures demonstrate it’s an even more dire situation for the Government to address.

We have seen no evidence of targeted measures that will end the exclusion of children with SEND from early years settings, because their needs are not recognised or resourced. In a ‘budget for growth’, where was the guarantee that childcare will expand to ensure that every disabled baby and toddler has a childcare place to meet their needs?

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