Whatsmore the study also revealed that the early years funding shortfall continues to increase at a staggering rate rising by almost £50 million in the last year to £662 million. This has resulted in one in five childcare providers lowering the quality of food they give to children. While some providers have had to pass on the costs to parents. Meaning one in five childcare providers now require private hours to be taken alongside the government’s flagship funded childcare offers. Which adds further costs for the most disadvantaged families.

The research was produced by independent research agency Ceeda. Dr Jo Verrill, managing director of Ceeda, said: “Whilst a logical response to financial pressures, these actions have important consequences, particularly for those families least able to pay for early education.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance said: “This is what a sector in crisis looks like. Providers are straining to deliver quality childcare on funding levels set in 2015, leaving them forced to choose between reducing quality and charging ever higher fees or closing their doors. There’s only one conclusion to draw from this: the government can no longer afford to underfund the early years. It must invest properly in its flagship childcare schemes and review the funding annually to make sure it stays in line with rising costs.”

The Early Years Alliance is the largest and most representative early years membership organisation in England. A registered educational charity, it also provides high-quality affordable childcare and education to support children and families in areas of deprivation throughout the country.

Continuing Leitch added, “We’ve heard countless times from ministers about the importance of social mobility and yet the evidence is that their policies are having the opposite effect. This report is just the latest in a growing list of studies, including several commissioned by the Department for Education, revealing government childcare policy is failing, even on its own terms.”