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Our Manifesto

Years of underfunding of key planks of the childcare offers, and a lack of vision or strategy for the early years sector has led to a childcare system that is both unaffordable and inaccessible.

Parents tell us they struggle to pay their high childcare bills, and we have seen growing childcare shortages across the country meaning many parents struggle to get a place, especially if they are on low incomes, from migrant backgrounds or their children have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) such as autism. We know that many hardworking, dedicated staff are leaving the sector due to poor pay and limited career progression. Taken together, this means too many children miss out on the high-quality early education that can boost their outcomes in childhood and beyond.

Now is the time for reform. Our Manifesto sets out the problems facing the early years sector and our recommendations on how to fix them. Reform is needed for a childcare system that serves the interests of society, parents and children.


Childcare in the UK is expensive. Since the beginning of our annual Childcare Survey in 2001, we have observed price increases year on year, usually above the rate of inflation. For many families, the cost of childcare is so great that their income is insufficient in providing a route out of poverty.

We recommend a universal free hour offer, with all children eligible for 30 hours per week from the age of nine months until starting school.

158 pounds per week for a part-time nursery place for a child under two


Childcare in Britain is not of consistently high enough quality to make a real difference to children’s outcomes. We are seeing providers being forced to take steps that will reduce the quality of provision in order to remain financially sustainable.

We want to see the government introduce and fund a workforce strategy and introduce annual monitoring of pay and conditions to address challenges with recruitment and, crucially, with retention.

18% local authorities report that ‘at least some’ of their local childcare providers have increased their child to staff ratios due to financial pressures.


Children who stand to gain the most from high-quality childcare are also most at risk of missing out. Extremely low availability of childcare for disabled children and an overly complex system result in children with SEND, children in poverty and children from migrant families being less likely to access early education.

We recommend that the government increases the value of early years SEND funding and ring-fences the high needs block funding for early years. Government should introduce responsive SEND funding, delinked from other assessments, which do not accurately reflect need for the youngest children, and should issue guidance on how this funding should be used to ensure that children with SEND are not excluded from the early education and care they are entitled to.

6% local authorities in England report having enough childcare for children with disabilities.


Across Britain, both families who pay for childcare and families who are eligible for funded early education entitlements can struggle to secure childcare due to a lack of available places driven by staff shortages and low government funding. Historically, the allocated funding rate for early education entitlements does not cover the cost of provision.

The next government should introduce a right to early education, with a guarantee of a funded childcare place for all children regardless of their or their parent or carers’ background, bringing early years in line with schools. Disadvantaged children are currently getting less early education than their more advantaged peers; removing the work criteria from funded childcare eligibility would rebalance the system to prioritise all children’s outcomes.

41% local authorities are confident in meeting demand for the September 2024 expansion of funded childcare

A well-functioning childcare system is key social and economic infrastructure. It enables parents, especially mothers, to participate more fully in the workforce, balance their work and family responsibilities as well as boost family finances.

Early education has a significant impact on children's cognitive and social development, levelling the playing field for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and providing the foundation for their future success.

Investment in high quality early years education can lead to cost savings in the long term by offering children a strong start in education.

Our recommendations set out how the government can fix the problems of high costs and low quality, and barriers to access and inclusion by reforming the system, resolving the workforce crisis and allocating sufficient funding to the early years sector.

stacks of books in a library or book shop

Research by Coram Family and Childcare

Our research and advocacy focuses on making Britain as supportive of fulfilling family lives as possible, and on holding central and local government to account for doing all it can to remove barriers for families. By revealing new insights into family life in the UK and formulating innovative solutions, our research aims to push the envelope on how families are supported in the UK.