Data shows that 64,0000 childcare places have been lost during the winter lockdowns

Date Posted: Wednesday 30th June 2021

Over twice as many childcare places (64,173) have been lost during the winter lockdowns than in the first six months of the pandemic. Providers have been closing at a concerning rate, with 3.6 times more providers (7,566) closing between Sep-Mar 20/21 than in Mar-Aug 2020.

Reduced access to childcare

New data from Ofsted released today shows that in the six months up to March 2021, there were 14,385 fewer childcare places and 3,292 fewer providers in England. This represents a 4.4% net loss of childcare providers and 1.1% net loss of childcare places. This decrease is being largely driven by childminders leaving the market.

Prior to the pandemic, childcare provision was already scarce for some groups of children. According to data from Coram Family and Childcare, for disabled children in England, only 25% of local authorities reported having sufficient childcare in 2020.

New research published today by the Local Data Project run by Women’s Budget Group shows that the availability and affordability crisis in childcare is being exacerbated by the pandemic and subsequent childcare closures.

Affordability of childcare

Women’s Budget Group analysis shows that families are expected to spend a significant proportion of their income on childcare costs with evidence suggesting that mothers’ jobs and earning potential are more likely to be sacrificed when childcare is unaffordable.

For under 2s in Great Britain, full-time childcare costs absorb half (49%) of women’s median earnings while part- time childcare takes up nearly a third (63%) of women’s salaries.  

State support in the form of free-entitlement hours only starts for most children once they reach three. But even with childcare state support, childcare for 3- and 4-year-olds is still between a fifth and a quarter of women’s salaries with women spending on average 24% of their earnings on part-time childcare.

Childcare costs continue to rise faster than wages, with childcare fees having increased 4% in 2020, according to data from Coram Family and Childcare.

 Hana Abid, Report author and Research and Policy Officer at Women’s Budget Group, said:
“The childcare closures many feared at the start of the pandemic are materialising. During the Autumn and Winter lockdowns of 2020/21, over 7,500 providers left the sector and in March 2021 there were 64,000 fewer places than in August 2020. Demand is expected to go up after ‘Freedom Day’ and once people return to the office many parents might struggle to find childcare available for their children. The closures, combined with the ongoing affordability crisis, are likely to have an impact on parents’ – especially mothers’ – ability to remain in their jobs. The Government must urgently intervene to save the sector and fully covering the provision cost of the ‘free hours’ should be the minimum. Investing in a free universal high-quality childcare system would have benefits across the economy and be truly transformative for millions of children, in line with the levelling-up agenda.”

Trades Union Congress General Secretary Frances O’Grady, said:
“The government must act now to prevent a lasting childcare crisis. Without increased funding and support many more nurseries and other childcare providers will close permanently – leaving working parents across Britain in the lurch.  This pandemic has placed a huge strain on families with young children. Many women have been forced to sacrifice hours and pay to look after their kids – especially key workers and those in low-paid jobs who can least afford the financial hit. Ministers must give childcare providers the cash they need to stay open. And giving all workers the right to work as flexibly as possible from their first day in the job would help all parents manage their work and caring responsibilities.”

Read the report Access to Childcare in Great Britain

For further information, please contact: Thaira Mhearban: / 077366 58951/ Communications Officer

About Women’s Budget Group
The UK Women’s Budget Group is an independent and not-for-profit organisation whose aims are to promote a gender equal economy through conducting in depth analysis of the impact of policy on women. This analysis was undertaken as part of the Local Data Project which is run by Women’s Budget Group.

The Local Data Project will work to build and strengthen the capacity of local organisations who campaign for women’s equality to access and use equality data in their advocacy and campaign work. Find out more about the project here.