Childcare in England isn’t working, for children, parents, or providers. A patchwork of government-funded support leaves parents battling against eye-wateringly high costs, while providers are struggling to keep their doors open across the country as running costs rise but funding continues to fall short.

Access to high quality early years education and care is associated with better academic results at key stage 1, while children from the 40 per cent lowest income families who access formal childcare report better outcomes at key stage 1 than their peers who miss out.

The current failings of our childcare system is also costing parents, and particularly mothers, as many lone parents and second earners in couples are left worse off for taking on more paid work. A lack of available and affordable childcare also affects families’ wider wellbeing.

As gaps in school readiness widen between disadvantaged children and their peers, and as soaring living costs pull more families into financial insecurity, or deeper poverty, action on childcare is urgent.

This paper is the second of two exploring the case for a childcare guarantee in England. This paper argues that delivering a childcare guarantee would rely on three core shifts – towards a sustainable funding settlement, a new deal for the early years workforce, and to drive up quality and ensure a sufficient supply of childcare places in every neighbourhood.