Local authorities have an existing duty to carry out an annual assessment of child care provision in their area, including out-of-school provision for 11-year-olds. From April 2007, the Childcare Act 2006 places a new duty on local authorities to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the sufficiency of child care in their area, taking into account for all age groups the demand for child care, supply of child are, and any gaps between the two. Jobcentre Plus are designated ‘partners’ of local authorities in the fulfilment of this duty. Recently published statutory guidance highlights the importance of considering the child care needs of lone parents and their families.
Local authorities must complete their first sufficiency assessment within one year in order to prepare for their new duty, coming into force in April 2008, to secure sufficient child care provision to enable parents to enter or remain in work, or to make the transition to work. Statutory guidance will make it clear that local authorities will need to ensure that there is sufficient provision available to meet the needs of families at risk of social exclusion, including lone parent families. The greater availability of child care should make it easier for lone parents to return to work.