The Conservatives have been warned that they are in danger of breaking a manifesto promise
More than a fifth of nurseries (22 per cent) say they will not be, or are unlikely to take part in the Government scheme, which will see free childcare hours for three and four-year-olds in England double later this year, according to a new survey by the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA).
It calculates that this means that around 51,000 eligible children will not be able to access a nursery place for the full 30 free hours.
This is based on a Government estimate that around 390,000 youngsters will qualify for the offer, and that 60 per cent of childcare places are provided by private, voluntary and independent nurseries. Other places are offered by providers such as playschemes.
The NDNA's latest survey found that 44 per cent of the daycare providers questioned said that they will offer families the free 30 hours, while around 35 per cent are unsure.
Under the Government's plans, from this autumn, all three and four-year-olds in England will be entitled to 30 free hours of childcare a week, up from the current 15 hours.
But industry leaders have raised concerns that nurseries and childminders will not get enough public funding to cover the costs of providing these places.
More than a fifth of nurseries say they won't be taking part in the scheme
This manifesto promise is in real danger of failure
Purnima Tanuku of the NDNA
The NDNA survey, which only questioned day nurseries, found that 83 per cent plan to increase their fees this year, with an average hike of 4.5 per cent, while 71 per cent reported raising their fees in 2016, with an average rise of 4 per cent.
The association's chief executive Purnima Tanuku said: “Our findings are significant as they concern full daycare settings, the largest part of the nursery sector, who provide more places than schools or playgroups.
“There is no such thing as 'free' childcare – parents, nurseries and their staff are all paying for this.
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“It is time the Government stopped promising parents 'free' childcare hours unless they are prepared to invest the money needed. This manifesto promise is in real danger of failure.”
The Government announced last week that is making an extra £50 million available to help nurseries, pre-schools and playgroups to upgrade and build new facilities. The money will create more than 9,000 additional childcare places, it said.
NDNA questioned 788 nurseries in England in January and February.