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Three-quarters of extra childcare funding to benefit richest 50% - thinktank

2 min read

The Government’s flagship plan to double the amount of free childcare for parents will overwhelmingly benefit richer families, thinktank analysis has found. 

The Social Market Foundation said 75% of the money for extending the free entitlement for parents of three and four-year-olds would benefit the top half of households by income.

Amid concerns about capacity and providers pushing up costs for other services as a result of the new policy, which comes into force tomorrow, the SMF said there was a risk that it “could damage early education and care as it stands, pushing up the price for parents, and reducing quality”.

The Government is planning to spend an extra £9bn on childcare and early years education over the next five years, including the 30-hours pledge.

The SMF, which was working with Labour MP and former shadow education secretary Lucy Powell, found that just £250m of that £9bn was earmarked for children from disadvantaged families.

Ms Powell said ministers were “skewing” resources towards the better off.

“With a singular focus on early years policies which subsidise the already well-off, the government is leaving disadvantaged children lagging further and further behind,” she said.

“Far from addressing this [lack of social mobility], over the next parliament this is set to get significantly worse with just 2.7% of new money for early education and care dedicated to the most vulnerable children, and only a quarter benefiting the bottom half by income of families.

“This huge skewing of resources seriously risks a widening developmental gap between disadvantaged children and their better off peers at the age of five, creating a lost generation who will struggle to ever catch up.”

Education minister Robert Goodwill said: "We are determined to support as many families as possible with access to high-quality, affordable childcare, which is why we are investing a record £6bn every year by 2020 in childcare – more than ever before – and doubling the free childcare available to working parents to 30 hours a week, saving them up to £5,000 a year per child."

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