Better off families to benefit from early years provision, says report

4 Sep 17

Only a tiny proportion of the extra £9.1bn allocated by the government for early years provision will reach the most disadvantaged children, a report for the Social Market Foundation has said.

The research, by Labour MP Lucy Powell said only £250m - equivalent to 2.7% - of the money would go to a “lost generation” of children unlikely to catch up their more affluent peers.

Powell’s report found 30% of disadvantaged two-year-olds missed out on a free childcare place, while twice as many disadvantaged two-year- olds in the most deprived areas were not allocated these places compared with those in the most affluent areas.

She said: “Britain languishes at the bottom of the international league tables when it comes to using early year’s investment to tackle disadvantage. 

“Far from addressing this, 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.”

Powell said early years investment had always had to balance help for working families’ childcare costs with social mobility for disadvantaged children but there was now “a shocking new trend with the majority of the [new money] benefitting better off families with the most disadvantaged getting a tiny fraction of help.”

Social Market Foundation director James Kirkup said: “Poor social mobility is, in effect, a form of market failure because it indicates that participants in the market for labour are not competing equally – their outcomes are determined not by their efforts and talents but by factors over which they have no control.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Every single child should receive the same high-quality care, support, and protection, no matter where they live.

“The gap between disadvantaged children and others achieving a good level of development has narrowed since 2013.”

They said that 90% of childcare providers were in March rated good or outstanding and investment in childcare would increase to £6bn a year by 2019-20.

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