PAG Explains: Childcare Sufficiency Assessment

PAG Staff2022, Article, Early Years, free schools, Policy, Schools

PAG Explains:
Childcare Sufficiency Assessments

PAG have undertaken full Childcare Sufficiency Assessments (CSAs) for over 30 Local Authorities in England and Wales. We have experience stretching back to the days of childcare audits in the early days of Sure Start and the Childcare Act 2006.

As market leaders in the delivery of full CSAs, PAG's expertise in assessing childcare markets and consulting with providers and parents has helped local authorities of all sizes understand and secure childcare sufficiency, including during the COVID pandemic.

Associate Consultant, Jack Price Darbyshire, who currently leads our work on Childcare Sufficiency Assessments, explains exactly what CSAs are as well as PAG’s process in assessing sufficiency.

What is a Childcare Sufficiency Assessment?

In the UK, local authorities have the responsibility to assess whether there is sufficient number of childcare places within their boundaries. A Childcare Sufficiency Assessment enables them to do this, as well as better understand the needs of providers and families in their area.

Whilst these assessments are no longer compulsory in England (although they remain so in Wales) they are a vital tool for local authorities to gather data and improve local childcare provision.

PAG's Process

One of the key areas of focus when we undertake a CSA is the area demographic, where we look at predicted population estimates, new housing developments, and other relevant data to assess whether there will be an increased or decreased demand for childcare places in the coming years. We then supplement this quantitative data work with consultations with parents and providers.

We then break this information down by ward to determine where in the local authority there is sufficient childcare and where there may be gaps in provision. Childcare sufficiency is about more than just places, however, so we also look at a range of other elements including SEND provision, recruitment and staff retention, staff training, Ofsted ratings, and more. In light of the pandemic, we now also look into the effects of COVID on local childcare sufficiency.

There's often particular interest from councils about the funded entitlement and whether this is sufficient for parents or whether more funding is needed to support access to childcare. We also look at whether or not funded childcare is sustainable for providers.

Once we have gathered this data, we compile a report of the findings and make recommendations to the local authority to support childcare moving forward.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to undertake a Childcare Sufficiency Assessment?

It is important to undertake a Childcare Sufficiency Assessment because it is difficult for local authorities to understand what is really going on with childcare in their area without thorough consultation with providers and parents. One of the main issues we have found when undertaking Childcare Sufficiency Assessments in some local authorities is lack of prior engagement between councils, childcare providers, and parents. CSAs offer an opportunity for local authorities to consult with parents and providers, as well as demonstrate their commitment to improving childcare in their local area.

What is the most common issue found in Childcare Sufficiency Assessments?

One of the most common issues for parents is affordability. The CSA can help with understanding the rollout of funded entitlements, take up from parents, and whether this is sufficient or if more support is required. It can also help understand whether the rollout of funded entitlements is sustainable for providers or if they prefer to offer private places.

How often should childcare sufficiency be assessed?

In Wales, CSAs are mandatory and should be undertaken every 5 years.

In England, though they are not mandatory, we recommend that they should be undertaken regularly to ensure that childcare in the local authority remains sufficient and authorities are regularly engaging with parents and providers.

If you have any questions about Childcare Sufficiency Assessments or the CSA service that PAG provides, please get in touch by contacting us at or completing our contact form here.