The 30 hours a week ‘free’ childcare for 3 – 4 year olds is being rolled out in September this year – designed to help parents get back to work. A Radio 4 feature on Money Box yesterday (“Sanction busting”, February 25th) proved that there is a growing acknowledgement among providers and highly-regarded Early Years associations that the government will not be giving them sufficient money to provide quality care.
Kate Adams, manager of one nursery that is piloting the scheme, The Play Den Nursery in Swindon, gives an honest and insightful account of how they are realising the numbers don’t add up. Her break-even cost of £4.70 an hour is not being met by the government’s offering of £3.86 an hour. She states that “Settings will not be able to maintain sustainability, longer term. We are a business at the end of the day. We need to make a profit to be sustainable, to be open for the next generation.” She goes on to say that the nursery has no option but to scale back on ‘extras’ such as nappies, wipes, sunscreen, meals and snacks, extra-curricular activities and outings and give parents the choice of providing everything themselves for their children, or paying a “small fee” for these extra services. Even then she says, they will be offering these hours “at a loss”.
In the same programme, the Chief Executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, Neil Leitch remarks on the anomaly of the £4.88 rate, which the government had originally announced, and the reality of the figures now being seen. He also talks about the increase in the number of providers that will not be offering the 30 hours, inevitably leading to a lack of available places. Neil Leitch clearly identifies the inevitability of the shortfall of funding “being shifted across to parents and providers.” Furthermore, with the government stating that this scheme will not be reviewed until 2020, the consequence is that the amount of parental contribution will carry on increasing in this time, as nursery costs (e.g. living wage, business rates) go up.
What might this mean to parents?
- Availability for the funded places might be severely limited
- Your choice or preference of childcare setting may also be extremely limited
- You may be asked to provide ‘extras’ for your children, including food, nappies etc.
- You may be asked to contribute a fee for any ‘extras’ provided
- Settings might be compromised as to the quality of care they provide your children i.e. no outings
What does this mean to providers?
- You may have to restrict or refuse funded places
- You may have to look to parents who take additional hours, but do not qualify for the full 30-hour offer
- You may have to concentrate on, and expand, your capacity to take more 0-2 year olds instead
- You may have to ask parents to provide any ‘extras’ for their children, or…
- You may have to ask parents to contribute towards ‘extras’ for their children
Childcare settings can click on a link to go to the Pre-school Learning Alliance page which gives you the Funding Database for you to find out your local authority’s funding rate.
They also have a comprehensive “Guide to early years funding and delivery changes” available for download.
And while you’re on that page, consider joining the campaign “Fair Future Funding” that is calling on the government to ensure that early years funding rates cover the rising cost of delivering places.