In his Autumn Statement today the Chancellor failed to offer any financial help to an early years sector which is already struggling to stay afloat.
While it is good news for the low-paid early years workforce that the minimum wage for those over 23 will rise from £9.50 to £10.42 in April, there is no extra money for early years providers to cover this increase in staff costs.
Despite the DfE’s own figures indicating that the sector is underfunded by £2bn per year, there was nothing beyond the annual increases agreed in last year’s spending review of £180m in 2023-24 and £170m in 2024-25. This, despite Mr Hunt managing to find an additional £2.3bn per year for schools for the next two years.
We still await the government’s response to its recent funding consultation to find out how the below-inflationary increase will be distributed, which could see some local authorities’ funding being virtually unchanged in cash terms because of changes in the data used to calculate the allocations.
Early Education’s Chief Executive, Beatrice Merrick said:
“We have already seen parents take to the streets to protest about the unaffordable cost of paying for early education and childcare places. By failing to provide even an inflationary increase for the government-funded entitlements, the fees and additional charges for parents can only increase. The quality of early education places will be jeopardised by further cuts, and we will undoubtedly see more settings close, to the detriment of children and families. This is disastrous at a time when the sector needs extra funding to support children whose early experiences have been so significantly impacted by the pandemic.”