Section 6 of the Childcare Act 2006 requires each local authority to secure, so far as is reasonably practicable, sufficient childcare provision to meet the needs of working parents in their area. Sufficiency does not simply relate to the numbers of places available but also encompasses consideration of the accessibility, affordability, flexibility, sustainability and quality of such places.
To enable local authorities to meet the Sufficiency Duty they were also required under Section 11 of the Act to complete a Childcare Sufficiency Assessment by 31 March 2008. These assessments included analysis of the extent of the provision of, and demand for, childcare places, and identified any local gaps. Local authorities have to repeat the assessment process every three years, and must keep their assessments up to date in between times. Assessments are required to be to be published on local authority websites.
As required under Section 11 of the Childcare Act 2006, all local authorities have completed and published their first child care sufficiency assessments. These assessments offer a detailed analysis of the extent of the provision of, and demand for, child care places, and identify any gaps in such provision. The duty to secure sufficient child care which came into force in April 2008 requires local authorities progressively to eliminate gaps in provision and I would expect all local authorities to be working to close gaps they have identified.