Bradford two-year-olds face childcare shortfall

Gabriella Jozwiak
Friday, May 3, 2013

A shortage of capacity may leave thousands of disadvantaged two-year-olds in Bradford unable to receive free childcare next year.

5,200 two-year-olds in Bradford will be eligible for the free entitlement by 2014. Image: Peter Crane
5,200 two-year-olds in Bradford will be eligible for the free entitlement by 2014. Image: Peter Crane

The Yorkshire council's children's services committee has warned that more than 2,600 two-year-olds living in some of Bradford's most disadvantaged areas will be unable to access the free childcare they are entitled to in 2014 because of a shortage of early years places.

A report by the committee said one of the causes of the situation in Bradford was the location of existing capacity for two-year-olds, which was developed “largely in response to the childcare needs of working parents”.

“Provision is concentrated in non-disadvantaged areas, where eligibility for the new entitlement will be lower,” said the report.

“Significant new capacity will need to be developed in the disadvantaged areas.”

The Department for Education identified Bradford as having the fifth-highest level of eligible two-year-olds in England by 2014 – a total of 5,200.

From September this year, 20 per cent of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds will be offered 15 hours of free childcare across England. This proportion rises to 40 per cent in September 2014.

Bradford Council has made efforts to meet the demands – it has transferred £500,000 of funding intended to create non-statutory places in preparation for the 2014 entitlement to its capital funding budget, to help meet the target.

A council spokesman said officials were discussing how to tackle the problem: "We are working with partners in schools and the private, voluntary and independent sector to do everything we can to have places ready in time for the government's target.”
 
James Hempsall, the national support director and central region lead for the government’s Achieving Two-Year-Olds project, which is helping local authorities implement the two-year-old offer, has also been working with Bradford.

He said the council had identified a need for 500 additional staff for the new childcare provision. 

It also intended to develop a workforce development strategy to ensure the local authority could continue to support providers and the market to recruit, train, and grow its childcare workforce. 

“We have always known this was not going to be easy and we are here to support Bradford with its work towards its targets so that children can benefit from their entitlement,” said Hempsall.

“We think the local authority has been extremely proactive so far: raising this at strategic level; gaining commitment for the capital programme; developing and implementing the capital programme from April 2013 and starting its delivery now rather than next year.”

A DfE spokeswoman said Bradford had an obligation to secure provision for all eligible children.

“We simply do not accept that Bradford have a funding shortfall,” said the spokeswoman. “They will receive over £8m in the 2013/14 financial year to pay for two-year-olds’ early education.

“From September 2013, all councils must secure a place for all eligible two-year-olds whose parents want one.”

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