The Budget for 2013-14 cuts £1.35m from the Early Years Support Service and the Child care sustainability Budget. (P 209 Budget for Birmingham 2013+)
Access to good quality child care is already acknowledged to be a problem by the Council where
the quality of early childcare support is often lowest in those areas that contain the highest numbers of children experiencing poverty.
The purpose of the Early Years Support Service is to support private, voluntary and independent child care settings, including increasing the capacity of local childminding and pre-school nursery placements. The Child Care sustainability budget is a subsidy to fund child care placements with child care provides based in disadvantaged communities.
The last Government introduced a sufficiency duty on Local Authorities to secure sufficient child care in their area. The purpose is to ensure a supply of child care to enable parents and carers to work and or undertake training leading to work, and to provide care for disabled children.
Providers in disadvantaged areas were heavily reliant on providing funded places as demand for paid for places was low. Core running costs had increased and providers were often struggling to keep their fees low and remain flexible.
These cuts could reduce the availability child care and threaten the quality of that care for low income families and affect the sustainability of local child care providers.
The Council also appears to be backtracking on its Child Poverty assessment and strategy for Birmingham. This is a statutory assessment to consider the needs of children living in poverty in their area.
This assessment identifies that the ‘availability of childcare needs to be such that there is a general increase in the take-up of childcare by low-income families, and that lack of childcare is not a barrier to taking up employment.’
During the preparation of the budget consultation it is reported that there was a Labour Group revolt at the proposed level of cuts to Children’s Centres (6) By displacing these cuts onto Early Years services the Labour Group has headed off high profile and vocal campaigns to defend the local Children’s Centres onto a less visible but no less valuable service,
The Labour Group must explain the impact of these cuts to Early Years services and funding for children and families living in poverty and how these cuts were informed by their statutory responsibilities to reduce child poverty in Birmingham.