More than two thirds of councils are failing to provide enough childcare, campaigners for have warned.
Just one in five local authorities have enough childcare for parents with children under two, and one in three for school age children, the Daycare Trust and Family and Parenting Institute said.
And just one in seven have enough childcare for disabled children - a figure which has not improved in five years, the charity said.
Many parents would like to go back to work but cannot afford the childcare costs
The research follows recently published Department for Work and Pensions figures that showed a third of parents who want to work more cannot because they are unable to find affordable childcare.
Daycare Trust and Family and Parenting Institute chief executive Anand Shukla said: "Councils across England and Wales are failing families by presiding over a continuing shortage of high quality, affordable childcare."
He added: "Local authorities have a legal duty to ensure a sufficient supply of childcare in their areas, but no doubt their failure to do so is linked to the tight financial squeeze they find themselves in, with ever more austere funding settlements.
"Only the government can address this situation by investing more in providing support for parents."
Government plans to increase the number of pre-school children that childminders can look after will have little impact, the charities said.
A government spokesman promised a new announcement soon, and said: "We are reforming the childcare system so that providers have more flexibility when they have highly qualified staff and childminders are better supported."