LYNNE NICHOLLS, of Lower Drive, Dawlish, writes:

In last week’s paper, Central Devon MP and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride, devoted his column to how the government is trying to get more people into the workforce.

One of the examples he gave was that of the proposed increase in the funding of under aged five child care stating that ‘Greater support for all working parents will be introduced from next April with 15 free hours childcare for working parents of two-year-olds, followed by 15 free hours from nine months old from September 2024.’

As I have more than once recently pointed out in the letters page of this paper, this proposed increase in funding does not necessarily mean that there will be a corresponding increase in availability of childcare places.

So I ask this, please could he let us know what action is presently being taken in this part of Devon (ie the two constituencies of Central Devon and Newton Abbot) to ensure that next April and September there will be the necessary increase in availability.

In his constituency of Central Devon, I understand Exminster to be a place where the supply of child care does not meet demand and not that far away in Dawlish, in the constituency of Newton Abbot, there is a similar mismatch between demand and supply. Both are areas known as child care ‘hotspots’.

Devon County Council defines a child care hotspot as: ‘areas where the Early Years and Childcare Service need to take action to ensure there is sufficient, flexible early years and childcare provision for parents to undertake work or training and for children to access their entitlement to early education.’

But DCC’s website also says that: ‘A hot spot will often be determined by factors beyond the control of the Early Years and Childcare Service.’

So if factors determining how much child care is provided and in what locations are beyond the control of DCC’s Early Years and Childcare Service then what ACTION (if any) can and is being taken especially with regard to the two child care hotspots referred to above, to increase the amount of under aged five child care places in order to meet next April and September’s deadlines?

There is absolutely no point in making child care more affordable if the availability is not increased as well.

Is there?