The Government’s flagship free childcare scheme will face further problems unless there is a boost to staffing, ministers have been warned, as Rishi Sunak insisted the scheme would be ready to go despite technical issues.

Reports suggested plans to increase the offer of free childcare were in “chaos” because parents were struggling to access their entitlement.

Mr Sunak said on Monday the policy would proceed as planned despite it being beset by “practical issues” preventing parents from signing up due to technical glitches.

Those unable to apply for childcare will now be automatically sent a code in the post to access the scheme, the Department for Education (DfE) announced.

Mr Sunak said all eligible families in England will be able to benefit from the changes which will offer 15 hours of free childcare to working parents of children aged over two from April.

This will be extended to children over nine months later this year, and then extended again to 30 hours to all children aged nine months to five years from September 2025.

But in the Commons, Labour MP for Vauxhall Florence Eshalomi cited estimations from the Women’s Budget Group which suggest the latter stage would need “at least 40,000 additional new early years’ staff” in order to “cope”.

She asked the minister to set out when the Government’s long-term workforce plan for the Early Years sector will be set out, adding: “There’s no good having this increase in entitlement if there are no staff to look after those children.”

Education minister David Johnston admitted more staff were needed but said the 40,000 figure related to the second stage of the rollout, in September 2025. “That’s part of why we’ve got the recruitment campaign that we do. And we’re pleased to have seen a 4 per cent increase in the number of staff,” he said.

Mr Johnston insisted no parents will lose out on free childcare despite issues with the rollout of the first stage of the policy. But Labour said the childcare pledge had been left in “tatters” due to mismanagement.

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