25th January 2019

The impact of recent government policies on early years provision

The early years sector has undergone a number of significant policy changes in recent years, primarily in the form of subsidies and tax relief initiatives to help parents with the cost of childcare.

This report examines the impact of these changes on the take-up of different childcare entitlement groups and on the total number of funded places. In particular, it focuses on whether changes to entitlements have resulted in some groups being prioritised over others.

You can read the paper here.


Key findings 

  • There is a possible trade-off in provision between the take-up of the entitlement for disadvantaged two-year olds and take-up of the 30 hours entitlement for three- and four- year olds. There is wide variation across local authorities; in some authorities where take-up of the 30 hours entitlement has increased, there has been a decrease or slowing down of take-up of the two-year old entitlement. In others, there has been an increase or acceleration of take-up amongst disadvantaged 2-year olds. The differences in delivery costs for two-year-olds and three- and four-year olds could explain the decision of some local authorities to prioritise places.
  • There is no clear relationship between the take-up of the 30 hours entitlement and the change in the supply of places. The data shows that, despite local authorities having similar levels of take-up, there were still wide variations in the change in the number of funded places. This indicates that the 30 hours policy does not clearly stimulate new capacity in the short term, but the full effect may yet to be seen.
  • There is no evidence that changes to funding rates have had an impact on the take-up of the 15 hours or the 30 hours entitlements in the short run. It is possible that increases in funding may have been absorbed by existing funding pressures. Additionally, it may be possible that other variables may have a stronger influence on early years take-up, such as parental work patterns, the relative cost of childcare and the perceived benefits of childcare.