Childcare during the pandemic: the changing role of local authorities

Childcare during the pandemic: the changing role of local authorities

New research shows the various ways in which local authorities (LAs) in England supported childcare providers and families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

This report co-authored by Frontier Economics and Coram Family and Childcare, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, highlights the impact of LAs during the pandemic but also the uncertainty about the future of the sector.

Findings in the report were pulled from interviews with 122 Local Authority Early Leads and demonstrate the wide and varied local support for the sector. For example, some LAs offered considerable additional financial assistance, whereas other LAs reported no additional spending.

Although many felt it was too early to gauge the full extent of the impact once financial support ends, the research did not indicate a widespread view among LAs that the sector is on the brink of financial disaster. Also, most areas have not seen, and do not immediately anticipate, widespread closures that would lead to shortages of childcare.

Concerns were expressed, however, for the future of ‘out of school’ childcare; the dual challenge of delivery of these services during the pandemic and reduced take-up from parents working from home could have a big impact for the future of these services. Also, LAs were mostly unable to confirm whether the quality of childcare had been significantly affected by the pandemic, in part due to not being able to make their usual visits to settings.

The report identifies the range and variations in the nature of LA support, which suggests that they have been responding to emerging local needs with bespoke local approaches. While the ability to make localised interventions based on local need is a major strength of the LA role, it is concerning that this ability may be limited by local constraints in some areas.

To read the full report, please click here.

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