Free 30 hours child-care – or is it? Government scheme is short on funding
From September 1 the government has doubled the number of hours of free childcare available for all three and four year-olds in England from 15 to 30 hours per week in term time - that is 38 weeks a year. This offer can be taken up by working parents who meet certain criteria, including earning over a minimum amount.
Unfortunately, the government funding given to child care providers doesn’t cover the cost of delivering it. According to the Pre-School Learning Alliance: “Because government funding doesn’t cover the cost of delivering funded places, childcare providers have had to look for ways to fill the funding gap or risk going out of business.“
“In some cases they have had to charge more for any non-funded hours of childcare, which has meant higher fees for parents.”
Marlborough.news has spoken to local nursery providers to find out how these new proposals have affected them.
Kate Easter, proprietor of Sixpenny Childcare with two nurseries in Devizes: “We have been put in a very difficult position. It’s a fantastic idea and we are keen to offer what we can, but there is a shortfall in funding. There are also considerable administration costs in setting up the 30 hour scheme which providers have to cover.”
“We have been working very closely with our parents since April and managed to find a range of solutions. The government funding does not cover the food provided for the children - cooked by our own chef using locally sourced ingredients, or French lessons, yoga, sport sessions, keeping our own goat on the farm, local walks and other activities.”
“We are asking parents to pay £4 per session to cover these. We offer some funded only hours for parents who can’t afford more but these are limited and are during our less popular sessions.”
Sophie Martin, Senior Manager at The Avenue Day Nursery, which has nurseries in Marlborough, Savernake and Andover, paints a similar picture:
“The Avenue Day nurseries within the Wiltshire and Hampshire area offer a number of 30 hour funding places, to support working parents with the affordability of childcare and to enable parents who want to work, or to work more hours, to do so.”
“We have an additional small charge to cover consumables such as food and extracurricular activities such as music, French, dance and forest schooling, which are not covered by the funding received from the government.”
Kate Easter sums up the situation: “It is a challenging time. Smaller nurseries will struggle more and there are a lot of child minders who can’t afford to operate with just funded places. The whole scheme has been badly thought out and rushed through. The government has just not listened to providers and the government website is a real muddle and keeps crashing. Parents have had to wait for weeks to receive their codes for claiming the 30 hours and there has been a lot of misleading information.”
“The onus shouldn’t be on the childcare providers to try to find a solution. We have had amazing parent support and that is why we have managed to find a way through.”
There is more information here on what parents need to know.
The photo above has been blurred to protect identities.