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At Coram Family and Childcare, we publish an annual Childcare Survey and in each of the 22 years it’s been reporting, we have found gaps in the availability of childcare. Last year 4 in 10 local authorities had gaps in availability for parents working full time, but the biggest gaps are always for disabled children. This forces parents like Antoinette, whose son has autism, to give up work and instead work fewer hours as a consultant simply because she cannot find childcare.

The childcare market in England is a mix of public and private providers, with schools providing education and care alongside private daycare settings. This division in types of providers speaks to the division we see in the aims that childcare is trying to achieve – between boosting the development of children before starting school, and enabling parents to work.

These aims do not need to contradict each other - both can be achieved simultaneously - but too often childcare policy and delivery divides between the two. School provision is far more likely to be led by a teacher and private provision is far more likely to offer the longer 8am to 6pm day which supports working parents. School based providers are linked into the wider education system with the mechanisms and structures that push up quality and children’s outcomes - but they may not be able to offer the hours that working parents need. 

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