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More than 40,000 pre-school children 'missing out on free childcare promised by the Government'

More than 40,000 pre-school children are missing out on free childcare promised by the Government, and the problem is set to worsen with many local authorities unable to provide enough places, according to a new report.

The number of local authorities in England with insufficient places for three and four year olds has more than doubled in the past year, from 23 to 59, states the report by the Family and Childcare Trust.

Some 41,300 three year olds are not getting free early education in England, and more than a third of councils are struggling to meet demand, it says.

The national shortage is jeopardising the Government’s pledge to double the free childcare to 30 hours a week, during term time, for working parents by 2017, warns the report, based on data provided by local authorities.

The issue is not confined to pre-school children. Just nine per cent of local authorities in England and Wales, and 12 per cent in Scotland, have sufficient after-school care for primary school children.

Local authorities in England and Wales are legally obliged to ensure there is sufficient childcare for working parents, under The Childcare Act 2006. Yet only 45 per cent of councils in England and 40 per cent in Wales provide enough places for parents working full-time. And in Scotland, only 13 per cent of local authorities have sufficient places.

The report also reveals how a family with one child under two in part-time childcare and one child at an after-school club faces an average annual bill of £7,933 – more than 28 per cent of the median household income in Britain. The average weekly cost of a part-time nursery place for a child under two is £116.77, and for a child aged two or older it is £111.88.