Parents forced to pay higher childcare fees

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Parents are being forced to fork out for childcare costs despite being eligible for the government’s new 30-hour free childcare scheme, a new survey suggests.  

The scheme, which was introduced in September, gives some three and four-year olds in England 30 hours of free childcare a week.

But new data published today shows that only a third of childcare providers offering the scheme are doing so without extra fees and charges to parents.

Nurseries and pre-schools charging parents more to pay for free government childcare hours

Nurseries and pre-schools charging parents more to pay for free government childcare hours

Childcare providers warn that the levels of funding from government are inadequate to cover costs, forcing them to ask parents to make up the shortfall in different ways.  

Of the 1,662 nurseries, pre-schools and childminders surveyed by the Pre-school Learning Alliance, just 35 per cent are delivering 30-hour places for free, without extra charges to parents. 

A further 36 per cent offer these places to some but not all children and 28 per cent have no fully free places.

The data also showed that 37 per cent of childcare providers have introduced or increased fees for additional goods and services, including meals, snacks and nappies as a result of the new scheme.

Meanwhile two-thirds said they plan to bring in extra fees and charges over the next 12 months in order to meet the cost of the new places.

ARE YOU BEING CHARGED MORE FOR CHILDCARE?

Are you having to pay more for childcare since the September change? We would like to hear from you, contact: rebecca.rutt@thisismoney.co.uk.

The alliance says the data published today follows on from repeated warnings from childcare providers that the current government funding levels, which are frozen until 2020, are too low for the scheme to work and relies on parents filling the funding gap.

It says a fifth of providers do not think their business will be sustainable in a year’s time as a result of the current level of government funding while 55 per cent said the funding they receive is less than the hourly cost parents pay.

If the rate of government funding is the same in a year, 77 per cent of respondents said it would have a negative impact on the service they provide while 44 per cent said it would have a significant negative impact.

When asked if they could offer the 30-hour places in a year’s time, 38 per cent of providers said they weren’t sure if they could afford to.

Parents forced to meet the funding gap between providers and the new government scheme

Parents forced to meet the funding gap between providers and the new government scheme

Parents forced to meet the funding gap between providers and the new government scheme

A number of providers gave anonymous comments to the survey, including the following:

‘We have implemented a registration fee to cover costs of daily diaries/ name cards/ learning journals/ name cards/ development records and to help with costs of consumables.’

‘We offer very few places as the funding rate is so low for our London setting.’

‘We have lost a lot of money with the cuts. We are still struggling and with the minimum wage increasing it will have a further big financial impact. We cannot afford to increase wages of higher qualified staff.’

‘Our running cost is £5.05 per child and we are getting £3.77 per child for the 30 hours.’

Only a third of childcare providers offering new government scheme without higher fees

Only a third of childcare providers offering new government scheme without higher fees

Only a third of childcare providers offering new government scheme without higher fees

The majority of complaints from parents about the new scheme were to do with difficulties in applying online, which made up 84.2 per cent. Just over half were to do with confusion over eligibility criteria, 44 per cent were around when their child can access the 30-hour scheme and 25 per cent were to do with being asked to pay additional fees. 

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: ‘With the majority of providers forced to limit the number of genuinely “free” childcare places on offer, and many set to increase additional charges for funded hours in the next year, it’s clear from these findings that the government’s flagship childcare policy is failing both providers and parents.

‘Respondents have laid out in black and white that the 30 hours policy is simply not working, with a continued lack of adequate funding leaving many with no option but to pass the funding shortfall on to parents. 

‘This has left parents to pay the price for government underfunding through often unexpected charges for things like nappies, food and trips, while the government continues to claim that it’s delivering on its promise of “free” childcare.

‘Worse still, with early years funding rates set to be frozen until 2020 despite inevitable rises in childcare business costs such as wages, rents and pensions, the pressure on providers – and, in turn, parents – is only going to get worse.

The government changed the free childcare scheme for three and four-year olds in September

The government changed the free childcare scheme for three and four-year olds in September

The government changed the free childcare scheme for three and four-year olds in September

‘Since the announcement of the 30 hours, the childcare sector has been very clear that, without sufficient funding, the scheme simply will not be viable in the long term – and thousands of parents and providers have now joined the Alliance’s Fair Future Funding campaign to demonstrate their concerns.

‘The government should not have needed more evidence of a childcare funding crisis – but here it is. If ministers don’t want to leave parents picking up their tab or to risk forcing even more providers to close, they need to recognise that the current situation is unsustainable and increase funding so it meets the cost of delivering places as a matter of urgency.’

A spokesperson, for the Department for Education, said: ‘We are investing a record amount of around £6billion every year by 2020 in childcare and have doubled the free childcare available to working parents to 30 hours a week, saving them up to £5,000 a year per child.

‘Providers can choose whether to offer 30 hours and what pattern of days and hours they offer parents. 

‘We have always been clear that government funding is not intended to cover the costs of meals or additional services. However, while providers can charge parents for additional extras, this cannot be a condition of the child’s place.’ 

HOW FREE CHILDCARE WORKS 

All three and four-year old children in England have access to some free childcare or education, and some two-year olds are also eligible if their parents receive certain benefits. 

This needs to be provided by a registered childminder, play scheme, nursery or club, a childminder with an Ofsted-registered childminding agency, a registered school or a home care worker for a registered home care agency.

All children get 15 hours a week free childcare which can be taken the term after they turn three.

Parents may also be able to apply for 30-hours free childcare if eligible and this can be done online. The criteria for a 30-hour place is that parents are in work earning at least the national minimum wage or living wage and not over £100,000. 

There are separate schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and there’s more details and eligibility criteria on the Gov.co.uk website.

Parents can also apply for tax-free childcare, which is a separate scheme, and pays out £500 every three months for each of child to help with the costs of childcare.

To be eligible for this parents need to be in work, earning at least the minimum wage or living wage, and not over £100,000. The child must be 11 or under and live at home.

 





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