UK & World News
Councils 'Not Providing Enough Childcare'
More than two thirds of councils are failing to provide enough childcare for working parents, campaigners for families' rights have warned.
Only one in five local authorities have enough childcare for parents with children under two, and just one in three for school-age children, according to the Daycare Trust and Family and Parenting Institute.
And just one in seven have enough childcare for disabled children - a figure that has not improved in five years, it said.
The charity's chief executive, Anand Shukla, said the shortage is linked to the financial squeeze.
"Councils across England and Wales are failing families by presiding over a continuing shortage of high-quality, affordable childcare," he said.
"Local authorities have a legal duty to ensure a sufficient supply of childcare in their areas, but no doubt their failure to do so is linked to the tight financial squeeze they find themselves in, with ever more austere funding settlements.
"Only the Government can address this situation by investing more in providing support for parents."
Britain has some of the highest childcare costs in the world.
Figures published recently by the Department for Work and Pensions showed that a third of parents who want to work more cannot because they are unable to find affordable childcare.
As part of coalition efforts to cut childcare costs, staff are to be able to take charge of six two-year-olds rather than four, while the ratio for children under the age of one will go up from three to four
But the charity's Childcare Costs Survey 2013 suggests such plans will have little impact on childcare costs.
Mr Shukla said: "Staffing costs are only part of a complicated picture, so allowing adults to look after more children at once is not only a risky idea, but an ineffective one too.
"With private and non-profit childcare providers exposed to the full force of a harsh business economy, we doubt whether parents will ever see any of the money saved by cutting nursery staff."
Ministers have still not finalised a much-heralded, wider shake-up of childcare funding and tax breaks.
The Government will make an announcement soon, a spokesman said.
"We are reforming the childcare system so that providers have more flexibility when they have highly qualified staff and childminders are better supported," he said.
"Ratio changes, which are not compulsory, will allow providers to have the flexibility to increase pay for better qualified workers.
"High quality providers will be able to expand and more childminders will enter the market - this will mean parents have more affordable childcare."
The charity's study will be published on Wednesday.