Winchester's Member of Parliament and Chairman of the All-Party group for Childcare and Early Education, spoke during a short Westminster Hall debate on early years funding, organised by the Member for Bath.
Steve Brine, who has championed the early years sector throughout the current Parliament was given the opportunity to intervene during Wera Hobhouse's speech.
As Chair of the APPG, Mr Brine represents private, voluntary and independent nurseries which make up the vast majority fo the early years sector, on top of that the MP is also a member of the all-party parliamentary group on nursery schools, nursery and reception classes.
Speaking during this morning's debate Steve said; "The Minister will rightly highlight that the Government have put in place a significant package for parents and early years educators. Despite that, there are still significant funding shortfalls. Early Years Alliance data shows that there is a gap of £2.60 per child per hour for every 30-hours place. That is just under £3,000 per child per year. So our all-party parliamentary group is calling on the Treasury and the Department for Education to fully fund all 30-hours places. I repeat the call for the catch-up premium for the early years sector in the comprehensive spending review. There is a chance, when we do that, to address wider issues in the early years funding system.
The hon. Member for Bath mentioned the NDNA FOI request on the underspends in local authorities. We think that that totals around £62 million, which shows that money is not getting to where it is most needed. Tens of millions of pounds could fund the 30-hours places for 20,000 children under our proposed catch-up premium. The Treasury and the Department need to look into that underspend and pull it back. That is why we are asking for the meaningful review of early years funding, which would include a multi-year funding settlement to allow providers some certainty to allow them to plan over the coming years.
More funding for the sector would, of course, be welcome but we cannot pour water into broken plumbing. The failings of the system are already being felt. I repeat the point that 35% of nurseries closed between April 2020 and March 2021—an increase of 35%. They are coming out of the sector. It is a worry. I am proud of the work that we have done on the 30 hours. As we emerge from the pandemic, we need our early years sector—our fourth emergency service—more than ever.
The lockdown by stealth courtesy of the “ping” must end for us all—apparently, it will end on 16 August—but it must certainly end by exception for the early years sector, which, once again, feels that it is being left out. I know that the Government have suggested that they will not produce a list but will deal with it on a case-by-case basis, and today is an opportunity for the Government to deal with early years on that basis. I look forward very much to hearing from the Minister, as she has plenty of time to speak."