Early years services are failing to target the children that most need support, a report has warned today.
e Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, argues the system needs a complete overhaul, with too many children from disadvantaged families falling behind before they even start formal education.
The report calls on the Government to create a ‘Best Beginnings’ strategy bringing together the Healthy Child Programme, the Early Years Foundation Stage, Children and Family Hubs, antenatal services and the Troubled Families Programme.
It also calls for an expanded offer of free childcare, reform of Universal Credit and an emergency funding package for childcare providers.
Ms Longfield said: 'The Government must make the early years a priority and drive reforms so that all children start school ready and able to learn and progress. Alongside high-quality early education, this means making sure that every family is guaranteed the support they need to help their young child to thrive, and to prevent early challenges turning into serious problems.
'This ‘Best Beginnings’ guarantee should make early years a central building block of the national recovery plan to level up children’s life chances, support families and boost the economy.'
In response, Cllr Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: 'The current offer does not give parents clarity about the best options for their children and there are growing concerns about the provision for disadvantaged children, those with special needs, and significant challenges facing the workforce.
'COVID-19 has also exacerbated the financial challenges facing early years providers and there remains an urgent need for additional funding to support them.'